Chicago Public Library gets $2M grant to preserve Black history archives

Chicago has won a $2 million grant to preserve Black history.  

The money will make one historic library's resources available throughout the city. 

Chicago's Woodson Regional Library is home to the Midwest's largest Black archival collection. With this $2 million grant, it can be shared throughout Chicago's public library branches. 

Harold Washington's historical rise to Chicago mayor's office is one of the library's more than 250 collections of Black American history. 

In the Vivian Harsh research collection wing, archives are housed in a climate-controlled vault that can be viewed through a secure process at the South Side library.


With a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, archivists were able to digitize materials to share with the public and process the backlog of materials at the library. 

"Black history is American history and that must be acknowledged and understood if we are going to create a city where a person's identity does not determine their access to learning and opportunity," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

"Funding is going to create crucial instructional tools for all of Chicago's educators to meet the requirements of the revised learning standards, while also creating learning experiences that all Chicagoans deserve," said Dr. Asif Wilson, assistant professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Until now, there was only one archivist managing all the resources here at the library named for Carter Woodson, the father of African-American history, and Vivian Harsh, the first Black librarian.