After a four-year process to name the 31st Street Beach Harbor for Chicago visual artist and the co-founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, Dr. Margaret Burroughs — the beach will be named after her. There was a special ceremony Aug. 11 in her honor renaming 31st St. Beach after one of Chicago’s African American champions for the arts.
Congressman Bobby L. Rush (1st District-IL) led a committee of leaders from all walks of life who have been influenced by Dr. Burroughs and her continued push for cultural preservation of African Americans throughout her life. She helped to established the South South Community Arts Center which still stands today at 3831South Michigan Ave.
After her family migrated from St. Rose, Louisiana when she was five years old, her love for the arts blossomed. A graduate of Englewood High School where she attended with classmate and famed poet, Gwendolyn Brooks, she went on to earn her Bachelor of Arts degree and her Masters of Arts in art education at the Art Institute of Chicago.
This past Wednesday, the Chicago Park District board had an official vote at the regular scheduled board meeting. Supporters were on hand to witness the historical milestone in the celebration of this tribute.
It’s befitting that such a great honor would be bestowed to an extraordinary woman, who served as a Commissioner of the Chicago Park District 1985 through 2010. Why the long process of consideration for a beacon in the African American community? In a time, where the proper paperwork could recognize a person for a neighborhood corner to have their name blazoned under a street light while still breathing life. It was required to have 10,000 signatures to petition the Chicago Park District to name both the 31st Street Beach and Harbor after Dr. Burroughs.
The same location where the infamous Chicago Race Riot of 1919 jumped off after a young Black youth drifted off into the White reserved area of the beach. Mobbed by a group of volatile white teens, they stoned the young boy to death which provoked the worst race riots in Chicago history. In the end, 23 Blacks and 15 whites were fatal victims to the massacre. Among some of the gangs involved in the feud between Blacks and whites were the Ham- burgs, a white Irish gang based in Bridgeport in which the late Mayor of Chicago Richard J. Daley was an active member as a teenager.
Nearly, 104 years later we come back to this area to pay tribute to an African American woman whose hard work and sacrifice for her community earned her this honor. We are pleased that the Chicago Park District has conceded but unfortunately, the harbor will be saved for another corporate company to keep naming rights.
Chicagoans are used to the politics game and ‘number jacking’ so this will not take away from the fact that when we refer to any piece of land associated with the 31st Street Beach and Harbor it will be proudly referred by us as the Dr. Margaret Burroughs Beach.
Let the choir say ‘Amen’.