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Chicago Theological Seminary spotlights civil rights leaders


Following Chicago’s long tradition of oral history, Chicago Theological Seminary produced an oral history project on the city’s Civil Rights Movement; this project was an archival study about Operation Breadbasket, which involved, among others, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., a onetime seminary student.

Created with the support of Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley FoundationThe Rev. Brian Smith, the seminary’s director of community relations and strategic partnerships, said the archive shows how the seminary served as an incubator for the movement’s early leaders.

In 1966, Jackson became president of the Chicago chapter of Operation Breadbasket, the economic development arm of the Civil Rights Movement organization Southern Christian Leadership Conference, as well as one of the leaders of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s open housing marches. in Chicago.

After becoming national director of Operation Breadbasket the following year, Jackson Founded Operation PUSH The late Rev. Gary Massoni and the Rev. David Wallace were seminary students chosen by King to lead the Chicago efforts of Operation Breadbasket.

The oral history project took years to complete, but Smith and Kim Schultz, the seminary’s creative initiatives coordinator, interviewed the Jacksons; Wallace, former Chicago branch secretary of Operation Breadbasket; Rev. Janette Wilson, Jackson’s advisor and director of PUSH Excel; Rev. Martin Deppe, who serves the Auburn Gresham parish and is the author of “Operation Breadbasket: The Untold Story of Civil Rights in Chicago”; Hermene Hartman, founder of N’DIGO Studio and publications; and Massoni’s wife, Betty.

“There will be some very pleasant surprises for people … the connection of people, who is doing what,” Schultz said.

One of the stories that stood out for Schultz was how Betty and Gary Massoni met Jackson and his wife, Jacqueline, while they were standing by trash cans in an alley; “each was suspicious of the other, and the deep and lasting friendship that resulted from this both works.” and personal.”

Schultz said the project looked at what faith leaders were doing in Chicago at the time, the diversity of the movement, white and black, women and men, all of which were interesting elements that surprised him.

“We’re hearing stories from these people that maybe haven’t been shared before, and certainly haven’t been shared in this context — about relationships, memories, work done, how it was done, who did it, what they faced,” he said. “This is all a fascinating look at the birth of the Chicago Civil Rights Movement.”

The six interviews are part of an archive of video, audio and photography that will be exhibited online on the Google Arts and Culture platform in May. Chicago History MuseumPeter Alter, the museum’s chief historian and director of the Studs Terkel Oral History Center, said:

Alter said the work was a “natural fit” given the museum’s existing materials on the Chicago freedom movement, including the acquisition of the Sun-Times’ photo archive. Excerpts from the interviews are currently available in Season 3 of the series. the seminary’s internal podcast “Our Seven Neighbors.” Each episode includes an interview with a person from the oral history project who is doing social justice work today.

“The great thing about the CTS collaborative initiative is that it will include scans of photographs and documents from our collections, excerpts from oral history edited by six oral history narrators,” Alter said. “If you are intrigued by the online exhibition but want to learn more from each of the interviewees, you can go to this library catalog and watch and hear everything.”

Schultz said presenting the oral history project to the world aligns with the seminary’s mission and commitments to civil rights and social justice.

“There are so many challenges in this world, so many causes we have to fight for, and so many injustices on every front, that for those of us who care, for those of us who try to work for justice and equality, we have it. Schultz said the immigrant crisis, attacks on Black lives continue, there is economic injustice, and it is easy to fall into despair. “But look at these people who are still doing this, like Martin Deppe, who still wonder, ‘What can I do?’ Look at the people who say. He’s in his 80s and still working, trying to figure out what else he can do. “He doesn’t give up and that’s inspiring.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson (left), leader of Operation Breadbasket, joins Breadbasket program director St. Louis on June 9, 1971, at 7941 S. Halsted St. in Chicago.  Clare goes over notes as she plans the entire National picket with Booker.  Tea Shops.

Jackson is also in his 80s. Jackson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease nine years ago. resigned He’s from the Chicago-based civil rights organization Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which he founded last year through its predecessor, Operation PUSH.

“You’re in awe of what you’re seeing right now and you don’t realize it’s a process, and that can be said for all of them,” Smith said. He added that the oral history project “is a great first attempt, although not comprehensive in terms of people to consider.”

Smith will moderate a conversation among Jackson Oral History Project subjects on February 8 at the Chicago History Museum. Tickets are free, but record is necessary.



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