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Affirmative Action and Black Achievement

On this date in 1969, the Coalition of United Community Action led a demonstration in the Loop, Chicago’s central business district, demanding that building trade unions provide on-the-job trainee positions for marginalized groups. There had been long-standing underrepresentation in the construction trades, particularly of African Americans. 

Among the demonstration’s leaders was Paul King, a building contractor and social justice advocate who believed that activism was entirely compatible with business success. He would become a vocal national advocate of affirmative action and a promoter of expanded training, greater access to credit, and increased chances for success for minority-owned firms. King became the executive director of the United Builders Association of Chicago and a national officer in the National Association of Minority Contractors. He also developed training courses in construction management for minority contractors in association with the Builders Association of Chicago and the University of Illinois. In 1975, King founded UBM, Inc., one of the nation’s most successful African American–owned general contracting firms, which worked on portions of the University of Illinois Hospital, the James R. Thompson Center, the O’Hare expansion, and enlisted quarters at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.

The Paul King papers at the Chicago History Museum document the activities of this social justice advocate. Read more about his work on our blog. Learn more.

Paul King (left) with Chicago mayor Eugene Sawyer, c. 1987. CHM, ICHi-085685

The Chicago History Museum blog is a space where we give you a look behind-the-scenes, highlight items in our collection, and share Chicago stories that you won’t see elsewhere. From examining items in our Marshall Field & Company Collection to documenting LGBTQIA+ history, the blog gives you a window into the work we do. Visit the blog.

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