Enrich your instruction with Great Chicago Stories, an award-winning suite of twelve historical fiction narratives and supporting classroom resources. Download the narratives, which were written and classroom-tested by local teachers, and corresponding artifact sets.
Please note: Due to website maintenance, the Great Chicago Stories interactive map and audio features are unavailable at this time. If you have questions or would like access to the full unit plans, please contact Megan Clark, school programs coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stories for grades 9 to 12
Abolitionist Movement in Chicago: “Halfway to Freedom”
Join Hannah as she arrives in Chicago during the early 1850s for temporary shelter at a stop on the Underground Railroad. Hannah is aided by the Jones family, prominent abolitionists, and by a brave young man named Shepherd. Even in this northern city, danger is all around for African Americans. They must cope with both the realities of daily life under the Illinois Black Laws and fugitive slave hunters, who enter the state to capture runaways. Read on to discover what happens to Hannah and her friends as they risk everything for freedom.
Public Housing and White Flight: “Where the Neighborhood Ends”
Times are turbulent in Hyde Park during the autumn of 1956 when Lane Cross, the son of an affluent African American lawyer, is confronted by difficult issues of race and class. The Supreme Court has outlawed unfair housing practices that used to confine African Americans within the “Black Belt,” bringing rapid change to many neighborhoods. Meanwhile, “blockbusting” real-estate agents are busy stoking white fears for personal profit—and spreading urban blight in their wake. Read more to find out what happens when Lane begins to question whether education and a good income are enough to fight prejudice.
Labor and the Haymarket Affair: “His Father’s Namesake”
It is 1898 in Chicago, and Albert Parsons Jr., the son of anarchists and labor activists Albert and Lucy Parsons, has just slammed the door on his mother. He is trying to decide if he will join the military to serve in the Spanish-American War, but his mother opposes the war and feels Albert Jr. is betraying his father’s legacy. As Albert Jr. deliberates his decision, he reflects on his childhood memories of the 1886 Haymarket Affair and the subsequent trial and death of his father. Read more to learn what happened during the Haymarket Affair and to find out what decision Albert Jr. makes.
Progressivism, Hull-House, and Immigration: “Angelo’s Saturdays”
Enter the world of Chicago’s Near West Side in 1898 where immigrant newsboy Angelo Blandino and his family live. Angelo can’t help but contrast his family’s cramped one-bedroom tenement apartment to the beautiful but impoverished Sicilian homeland they left behind. Angelo’s parents wish he could attend school, like his best friend Vito, but since the family depends on Angelo’s salary, he must work. Angelo feels isolated when Vito learns English quickly and begins to make new friends. Read more to find out what happens at Hull House, and how Angelo balances pride in his heritage with his desire to fit in.
Great Migration and the Jazz Age: “It’s a Long Way from Home”
During the Great Migration, Louis leaves rural Mississippi in search of a better life. He comes to Chicago, where his cousin Robert and Aunt Celia welcome him into their home. Louis, a country teenager, finds Robert’s city sophistication intriguing if a bit overwhelming. The teens enjoy going out in the evenings, unbeknownst to their aunt, so that Robert can introduce Louis to the Stroll, the lively South Side nightlife scene. Read more to find out the details of Robert and Louis’s adventures on the Stroll during the Jazz Age and to discover how Louis begins to find his place in Chicago.
Political Activism and the 1968 Democratic National Convention: “Peace”
It’s 1968, and while seventeen-year-old Julia is looking forward to going to college, her focus is also on the anti-war movement. It is a tense summer in Chicago. The nation watches as the city prepares to welcome delegates to the Democratic National Convention. At the same time, thousands of activists arrive in Chicago to protest the Vietnam War. With the reluctant consent of her parents, Julia and her best friend Mark join the demonstrators in Grant Park. Read more to discover the heated debate surrounding the issues and to find out what happens to Julia and Mark when they join the rally in Grant Park.