Exhibit looks at blacks and 1893 World’s Fair

African-American Cultural Center exhibit June 6 – Oct. 11. Image credit: Pam Rice (click on image for larger file size)

An interactive exhibition examining black Americans’ contributions to the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 will open at the African-American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Free and open to the public, “The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition” will be located in Room 207, Addams Hall, 830 S. Halsted St. from June 6 through Oct. 11.

The exhibition, inspired by the same-titled pamphlet co-authored by famed civil rights activist Ida B. Wells, highlights the historical accounts of  black Americans’ thoughts, feelings and experiences related to the Chicago’s World’s Fair. In addition, it draws on the 120th anniversary of the exposition to explore how blacks felt about their exclusion from the planning processes, some of the lesser-known contributions of black Chicagoans during that period, and issues concerning ethnic representation within the fair’s exhibits.

“The occasion presents an important opportunity to not only raise questions concerning the fair’s legacy, but also enter contemporary debates over who benefits from large-scale public festivities in Chicago,” says Lori Baptista, director of the African-American Cultural Center at UIC.

An opening reception at the center will be held from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 6.  The event will feature living history activities, musical and oratorical performances, and a guided tour of the exhibition. The reception, like the exhibit, is free and open to the public.

In addition to the four-month installation, the project will feature a series of monthly public programs presented in conjunction with Chicago-area institutions, most notably the DuSable Museum of African American History. Details will be announced at a later date.

The African-American Cultural Center is also developing “traveling suitcases” for K-12 classrooms, senior centers and community-based organizations. These humanities toolkits will contain re-creations of exhibition materials that will allow for exploration of World’s Fair-related sites in the city and support some social science curricular goals set by Chicago Public Schools.

“It’s our hope that the installations and related public programs will elicit valuable conversations on topics that remain relevant today,” Baptista said.

“The Reason Why the Colored American Is Not in the World’s Columbian Exposition” will be on view Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Evening, weekend and group tours can also be scheduled by appointment. For more information, call (312) 996-9549.

UIC ranks among the nation’s leading research universities and is Chicago’s largest university with 27,500 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state’s major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world.

More information about UIC.