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Grand Boulevard — Washington Park Tour: Site G
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Site G
Turn right on King Drive and go south all the way to 60th Street. On July 31, 1968, South Parkway was renamed King Drive in honor of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For generations of Chicago blacks, 47th and South Parkway was the best known corner of their city. The Regal Theater, built in 1927 at 4719 South Parkway by Balaban & Katz, featured such important entertainers as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ethel Waters, Cab Calloway, Lena Home and Nat King Cole. By the 1960s, however, 47th and South Parkway no longer marked the geographical center of Chicago's black community. The South Side Black Belt, which thrived precisely because of the color line against blacks, was profoundly affected by racial integration in the larger city. As black families moved to new neighborhoods on the .South Side, they no longer returned to 47th Street for shopping or entertainment. While the demolition of the Regal Theater in 1973 was a sad day for black Chicagoans, it underscored the fact that black families had moved beyond the confines of the old Black Belt. The above photograph shows 47th Street looking east across South Parkway (King Drive) in 1937.

Black churches such as Liberty Baptist, 4849 S. King Drive, and Corpus Christi, 4900 S. King Drive were among the most important institutions to develop in Grand Boulevard after the neighborhood became part of Chicago's Black Belt. Originally located at 27th and Dearborn, Liberty Baptist moved to 46th Street between Michigan and Wabash in 1930. In 1952 the congregation began construction of the present complex on South Parkway, which was dedicated in 1956 Known as the "Church with a Common Touch," Liberty Baptist was in the forefront of the black civil rights movement. It served as the Chicago headquarters for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., after whom the boulevard is named Dr. King was scheduled to preach at Liberty Baptist on the fourth Sunday of April 1968. His assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968 shook the nation. Before his death, Dr. King planned a Poor Peoples March to Washington, D.C. In May 1968, more than thirty busloads of civil rights activists and supporters left Liberty Baptist for Washington and the tent city known as "Resurrection City, U.S.A." Rev. A. Patterson Jackson son of the church's first minister, has been pastor of Liberty Baptist since 1951. Under his leadership the congregation has earned the title, "Common Folks in an Uncommon Cause." The above photograph shows the Liberty Baptist Church in 1985.

Corpus Christi Church, built by Irish Catholics in 1915, became the third black Catholic parish in Chicago in 1933. In addition to supporting a grammar school beginning in 1945 black parishioners sent their children to Corpus Christi High School, housed in the former Sinai Temple at 4622 South Parkway. (In 1962 a modern all-boys high school known as Hales Franciscan opened at 4930 S. Cottage Grove, on the site of the old St. Francis Xavier College and Academy.) Although it is no longer one of the South Side's largest black parishes Corpus Christi remains a vital link with Chicago's early' black Catholic community. Indeed, present and former parishioners contributed generously to the restoration of Corpus Christi's ornate coffered ceiling in 1977.

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