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America in the 1970s: Chicago's African-American Community

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Day 3 of Documerica Week on In Focus -- a new photo essay each day, featuring regions of the U.S. covered by the photographers of the Documerica Project in the early 1970s. Today's subject is Chicago's African-American community, primarily the South Side, documented by photographer John H. White, who went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Photojournalism in 1982. White landed a job with the Chicago Sun Times in 1978, and continued to work there until May of 2013, when the newspaper laid off its entire photojournalism department. His portraits of everyday life stand the test of time, inviting the viewer to travel back a few decades, and see just how we lived. The Documerica Project was put together by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1971, with a primary goal of documenting adverse effects of modern life on the environment, but photographers were also encouraged to record the daily life of ordinary people, capturing a broad snapshot of America. Be sure to see the whole series: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. [30 photos]

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A student at the Westinghouse Industrial Vocation School on Chicago's West Side, May 1973. (John H. White/National Archives and Records Administration)
A student at the Westinghouse Industrial Vocation School on Chicago's West Side, May 1973. (John H. White/National Archives and Records Administration)
Heavy traffic on the Dan Ryan Expressway in Chicago, Illinois, October 1973. At the time, it was the busiest stretch of road in the United States with 254,700 vehicles daily. The tall building in the background is the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower), 110 stories high and the world's tallest at the time it was completed, five months before this photograph was taken. (John H. White/NARA) #
Men pose on a South Side street, May 1974. (John H. White/NARA) #
South Side group of children in a playground at 40th and Drexel Boulevard, October 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Left: Wabash Street Bridge over the Chicago River, October 1973. Right: A swimsuit-clad woman enjoys a summer outing at Chicago's 12th Street Beach on Lake Michigan, August 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Swimmers take to the water at 12th Street Beach on Lake Michigan, in August of 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Mother and child, during an outing at Chicago's 12th Street Beach on Lake Michigan, August 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
A family enjoys a picnic at 12th Street Beach on Lake Michigan, August 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Left: Residents of Chicago's West Side check out a motorcycle, June 1973. Right: High school age student at the Robert Taylor Homes, May 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Sidewalk merchandise on Chicago's South Side, June 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Worshipers at Holy Angel Catholic Church on Chicago's South Side, October 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Left: Family at the Church of the Messiah on Chicago's South Side, for the baby's baptism, August 1973. Right: A student welder works in a machine shop course taught at the Chicago Opportunities Industrialization Center in the heart of the Cabrini-Green housing project, October 1973. The state funds the Chicago program, a part of a national organization founded in 1964 to provide free job training and placement for men and women in impoverished areas. (John H. White/NARA) #
Abandoned building on 37th And Prairie Street. (John H. White/NARA) #
A band performs at the Lake Meadows Shopping Center in Chicago, in August of 1973. Not well known, they are sharing their music at home, hoping it will lead to greater recognition. (John H. White/NARA) #
Left: The Isaac Hayes Dancers. Right: Musician Isaac Hayes performs at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the annual "Black Expo" in the fall of 1973. The annual event showcased African-American talent, educational opportunities, art and products to provide an awareness of black heritage and capabilities. (John H. White/NARA) #
Workers pass the time playing checkers on East 35th Street before going to work in Chicago, May 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Members of Chicago's South Side community line a portion of Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive to watch the Bud Billiken Day Parade, August 1973. Hundreds of thousands turn out to watch and take part in the annual event. Bud Billiken Day started in 1929, to provide African-American youth living on the South Side a moment in the spotlight, a day each year to showcase their talents. (John H. White/NARA) #
Participants on a float during the Bud Billiken Day parade along Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive, August 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
The Kadats of America, a young drill team, perform on a Sunday afternoon at a community talent show on the South Side. The leader, Major General Acklin, is shown giving commands to the youngsters, July 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Members of the Kadats of America perform on a Sunday afternoon at a community talent show on the South Side, July 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Reverend Jesse Jackson speaks on a radio broadcast from the headquarters of Operation Push, at its annual convention. One of the aims of the organization is to open the world of business to small black-owned businesses. (John H. White/NARA) #
Street scene on 47th Street, May 1974. (John H. White/NARA) #
Artist Ron Blackburn paints an outdoor wall mural at the corner of 33rd and Giles Streets in Chicago, June 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Woman selling "Have A Nice Day" balloons on a Chicago South Side street corner at Sox Park Baseball Field, June 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
A portion of a crowd of some 10,000 Muslims applaud Elijah Muhammad during the delivery of his Savior's Day Message in Chicago, March 1974. (John H. White/NARA) #
"The Fruit Of Islam", a special group of bodyguards for Muslim Leader Elijah Muhammad, at the base of the platform while Muhammad delivers his annual Savior's Day Message in Chicago, March 1974. (John H. White/NARA) #
Muslim women dressed in white applaud Elijah Muhammad during the delivery of his Savior's Day Message in Chicago, March 1974. (John H. White/NARA) #
Religious fervor is mirrored on the face of a Muslim woman listening to Elijah Muhammad's Savior's Day Message in Chicago, March 1974. (John H. White/NARA) #
Youths play basketball at Stateway Gardens highrise housing project on the South Side, May 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
Youngsters cool off with fire hydrant water in the Woodlawn Community, June 1973. (John H. White/NARA) #
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