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North Lawndale Oral Histories, part 1

Posted under Stories by Guest author

Wynton Alexander has been working on the Museum’s latest collaborative initiative, the North Lawndale History Project, developed by Paul Norrington, president and founder of the K-Town Historic District Association, Inc. Wynton is one of three North Lawndale Minow Fellows working with Peter T. Alter, the Museum’s historian and director of the Studs Terkel Center for Oral History. The project supports the upcoming North Lawndale Sesquicentennial in 2019, which celebrates 150 years since Chicago annexed the West Side community. Consisting entirely of community stakeholders, the sesquicentennial committee is dedicated to fostering neighborhood pride by maximizing participation in celebrating North Lawndale’s 150 years of rich history and diverse cultures, while building for the future.

I have been working at the Chicago History Museum since June 15 and am a rising junior at North Lawndale College Prep High School (NLCP). I live in South Deering on Chicago’s Southeast Side. At NLCP, I play football, basketball, and run track and would like to attend Louisiana State University to major in robotics engineering or be a chef. With Zilah Harris and Ina Cox, I am conducting oral histories for the North Lawndale History Project.

Through these interviews, I have learned a lot about people and a lot more about North Lawndale. We interviewed current and former residents and people with significant connections to the community to find out information that is not otherwise recorded or documented. I love to ask questions and get deep into topics so that when it comes to doing interviews, I am well prepared and never worried.

Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church, Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration, 2017. Photograph by Peter T. Alter

We have interviewed six people, one of whom was Dr. Clara Fitzpatrick. She was energetic, funny, and had a lot to talk about. Dr. Fitzpatrick also actually engaged us in conversation during the interview, which surprised me. She loved to talk about the relationship she had with her father, Reverend J. M. Stone, and perked up in her seat whenever his name came up. Reverend Stone was born in Georgia in 1906 and moved to Chicago in the 1930s. He was friends with Martin Luther King Jr.’s father.

From left: Wynton Alexander, Dr. Fitzpatrick, and Zilah Harris, 2017. Photograph by Ina Cox

In 1954, Reverend Stone moved his congregation from the South Side to the former First Romanian Congregation Synagogue on West Douglas Boulevard in North Lawndale. The building would be renamed Stone Temple Missionary Baptist Church, and starting in 1959 Reverend Stone would invite Martin Luther King Jr. to speak there on occasion. In August 2016, the Commission on Chicago Landmarks designated Stone Temple a landmark.

Listen to Dr. Fitzpatrick discuss the designation of Stone Temple as an official Chicago Landmark.

Dr. Fitzpatrick is a sweet lady. I feel since she is a teacher at Columbia College Chicago, she has even more knowledge to share and more things to bring to the table. I personally feel hers was among the best of the interviews we have done.

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