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This week in history: Queen Elizabeth II visits Chicago

Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition
Welcome to the “This week in history” newsletter! Every Saturday we take a break from recapping the day’s news to bring you a deep dive into Chicago’s royal, life-saving and quite often musical history. For more historic photos, follow us at @CSTphotovault on Facebook and Instagram.
— Alison Martin (@miss_alison_m, follow for extra history plus rants and dogs throughout the week)

This week in history: Queen Elizabeth II visits Chicago
Mayor Richard M. Daley welcomes the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to Chicago on July 6, 1959.
Mayor Richard M. Daley welcomes the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, to Chicago on July 6, 1959.
Any visitor with just 13 hours to spend in Chicago would probably hit the highlights: at least one museum tour, a trip to the top of Willis Tower, a stroll down the Magnificent Mile, maybe a ballgame and at least one Chicago-style hot dog or deep dish pizza.
If you’re royalty, however, that itinerary includes a personal welcome from the mayor, guided museum tours, dinner at a fancy hotel and one procession lined with cheering crowds. That’s the kind of day Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip experienced during their 13-hour visit in 1959.
Stopping by en route to Canada via the St. Lawrence Seaway, the royals from the U.K. received an enthusiastic welcome from Chicagoans.
“The city went daffy,” Chicago Daily News reporter Henry M. Hanson wrote for the July 6 edition of the paper. “A wild, noisy reception went off on the lakefront. Jets crisscrossed overhead. Fireboats shot plumes of water 100 feet in the air. Mortars bombarded the sunny blue sky with the Stars and Stripes and Union Jacks.”
Read more about the rest of the royal visit here. Check out photos and more details on the queen’s visit here. Watch a newsreel of the visit here.
The stacks
Chicago Daily News bookworms got a special treat when they opened the pages of the Sept. 24, 1966 edition of the paper: A Pulitzer Prize-winning, Chicago-born poet reviewing the work of another Chicago-based, award-winning poet’s first novel.
In 1966, Margaret Walker published “Jubilee,” a novel based on the life of a her great-grandmother that Walker spent 30 years writing. To review the work, the Daily News called on the one and only Gwendolyn Brooks. The two women came up through Chicago’s literary scene together (they were born two years apart and died within a year of each other).
A deeply personal story, “Jubilee” traces the story of Vyry Brown, a biracial woman born on a Georgia plantation. Her father, the plantation master, raped her mother, a Black slave who died when Vyry is a toddler.
Vyry eventually begins working in the “Big House” kitchen alongside Aunt Sally and later catches the eye of Randall Ware, a free Black man who works as a blacksmith. The two try to escape, but the overseer catches Vyry. She then survives through the Civil War on the plantation, witnessing the family’s destruction. When a kind Union soldier rescues her from an assault, she leaves the plantation with him and faces a whole new set of dangers as the two try to settle in Alabama and make a life for themselves.
Brooks called the book an “ardently researched epic” that’s “populated with breathers and writers. House and field slaves, slave-owners and overseers, ‘po-buckra,’ Margaret Walker knows them all, presents them all: and there is blood in both bit-players and stars.”
Throughout the story, Walker never shied away from the graphic realities of slavery (“a child is hung by her thumbs in a closet; old men are burned to death because they cannot work … after the Civil War the Ku Klux Klan burns and tars and feathers”), but she made room for her characters to find hope and beauty.
“Margaret Walker has decided that life is a mosaic,” Brooks wrote. “Therefore Vyry (Elvira), the milk-white, sandy-haired daughter of Master John Dutton and his black slave, Hetta, is allowed by the author to sing, sometimes, above her welts; is allowed to see most of the time, beyond her taint and spiritual mutilation.”
“Jubilee” filled in the realities that Margaret Mitchell’s “Gone With the Wind” skipped over, Brooks noted, but it also echoed the writings of James Baldwin.
“The pace of ‘Jubilee’ is firm,” she said. “The author rarely stops to cry or teach.”
First mention/Last mention
Mavis Staples, born July 10, 1939: The gospel singer — also a proud inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame — started out in the family band, the Staple Singers, before she eventually launched her own solo career. Though active in the civil rights movement, Staples didn’t receive her first shoutout in the Chicago Daily News until April 21, 1973, when she and two sisters sang at a concert for the Cook County Jail inmates at 26th and California. “When Cleo, Yvonne, and Mavis Staples sashayed off stage, every man rose up and shouted, flashing the clenched-fist salute,” reporter Jonathan Abarbanel wrote. “The Staples returned the salute, followed by a pacific V-sign.”
Louis Armstrong, died July 6, 1971: Chicago Daily News reporter Arthur Gorlick profiled Amstrong just three days before his death, celebrating “Satchmo’s” long career and detailing his current state. “He has been severely ill lately and is using a cane for the first time in his life, but is blowing that hot horn again in his New York home — and says he plans to go back to work when his health permits,” Gorlick wrote.
Take a look back at Armstrong’s influence on the 50th anniversary of his death here. Listen to him here or check out the best cameo ever here. Enjoy Staples’ performance during her 80th birthday party at the Apollo Theater in 2019 here or watch the 2015 documentary about her life (did you know she turned down a proposal from Bob Dylan?!) here.
Holidays in Chicago
Rain or shine, Chicagoans turn out en masse to celebrate the Fourth of July, whether it’s at the beach, a park, on a block or on a curb waiting for the parade to pass by.
Take a look at these candid shots from holidays past.
A couple kisses in the surf while others enjoy sunbathing and picnicking on July 4, 1978. From the Sun-Times archive.
A couple kisses in the surf while others enjoy sunbathing and picnicking on July 4, 1978. From the Sun-Times archive.
The Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society marches past Presence Saint Joseph Hospital on July 4, 1968. From the Sun-Times archive.
The Oakdale Old Glory Marching Society marches past Presence Saint Joseph Hospital on July 4, 1968. From the Sun-Times archive.
A group of teenagers and children watch the American Legion's Fourth of July fireworks display, held at Soldier Field, from a car on July 4, 1971. From the Sun-Times archive.
A group of teenagers and children watch the American Legion's Fourth of July fireworks display, held at Soldier Field, from a car on July 4, 1971. From the Sun-Times archive.
Thanks for reading! Want to share your thoughts? Your favorite moment in Chicago history? Your complaints? Send them to amartin@suntimes.com.
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