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Your Saturday history briefing

Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition
Welcome to the “This week in history” newsletter, part of Afternoon Edition! Every Saturday we take a break from recapping the day’s news to bring you a deep dive into Chicago’s high-flying, community-devoted and sa 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: Amelia Earhart touches down in Chicago
Amelia Earhart holds flowers as she waves to the crowd in Chicago on July 19, 1928 while sitting with two men in the back seat of a convertible automobile. From the Sun-Times archives.
Amelia Earhart holds flowers as she waves to the crowd in Chicago on July 19, 1928 while sitting with two men in the back seat of a convertible automobile. From the Sun-Times archives.
If anyone in the class of 1916 at Hyde Park High School thought their classmate, Amelia Earhart, had her head in the clouds, then they would soon find that it was a phase that the future aviator never outgrew.
Earhart, born July 24, 1897, left Chicago soon after her high school graduation, but she made a triumphant return to the city in 1928 just after her historic trip across the Atlantic Ocean. Perhaps in a show of female solidarity, the Chicago Daily News sent reporter June Provines to cover Earhart’s visit.
“The woman most recently in the world’s eye today stepped off the Broadway limited at 11 o’clock this morning — friendly, casual, charming and entirely unsentimental, into the embrace of a city overflowing with sentiment for her,” Provines wrote on July 19, 1928.
Earhart arrived in Chicago barely a month after the aviator completed her first flight across the Atlantic from Newfoundland, Canada, to Wales aboard the “Friendship” on July 17. Although she described her role as “baggage,” Earhart kept the flight log for pilot Wilmer Stultz and copilot Louis Gordon. Both men accompanied Earhart to Chicago, along with Gordon’s fiancée, whom he married before leaving the city.
The city rolled out a hero’s welcome for the traveling party, and Earhart had a weekend of parades and banquets to attend.
Past present
Suffragette and clubwoman Sadie L. Adams’ name only appears in the pages of the Chicago Daily News a handful of times throughout her life, but from those dozen or so mentions, it’s clear she packed a lot into her days.
Take for example this brief story, which ran on Oct. 22, 1931:
“A mile of dimes is the goal St. Edmund’s Episcopal church, 5831 Indiana avenue, has set for its members in a drive to raise funds for a new parish house. Members of the women’s guild and auxiliary, lunching the drive under the direction of Mrs. Sadie L. Adams, president of the organization, are sending to each parishioner a miniature stocking just large enough to hold dimes. Five thousand two hundred and eighty feet of dimes are sought.“
Unfortunately, the Daily News never published an update on the fundraiser, but Adams’ great-granddaughters, Tina and Lisa Finch, said such an activity would have been just like her.
"Our legacy for our family has been about service and social action,” Tina Finch said, “and Sadie certainly was part of social action. I think that was who she was and then we saw it in our grandmother and our mother, and then Lisa and I are both active with community ventures as well.”
Adams, who died this week on July 30, 1945, came to Chicago with her husband, James Purnell Adams, from Baltimore in 1910, Lisa Finch said. She became involved with Ida B. Wells-Barnett’s Alpha Suffrage Club and served as both secretary and vice president. After women won the right to vote in local elections in Illinois in 1914, Adams became one of the first women to serve on an elections board, according to the Iowa State University’s Archives of Women’s Political Communication. In 1920, after the 19th Amendment passed, she attended the first League of Women Voters meeting. At that time, Adams worshipped at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church but later transferred to St. Edmund’s probably around the time the Daily News article was published. 
St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church, of course, has a long, storied history in Chicago as it’s the oldest Black Episcopalian parish in the city. Its first services were held in 1905 in a basement at 55th Street and South Wabash Avenue, according to the parish’s history book, ”Behind the Red Doors.“ Back then, it was called the "Washington Park Mission,” led by Rev. George DeMing Wright. The following year, the group changed its name to “St. Edmund’s Mission” and moved to the second floor of the Citizen’s Trust and Savings Bank at 55th and State streets.
Three years later, the church moved to the Indiana Avenue location mentioned in the Daily News article and held its first service on Easter Sunday. “Behind the Red Doors” described the building as “a simple structure of stucco and brick.” At the time, most of the congregants were white, but as more Black men and women from the South came to Chicago during the Great Migration, many of those white families left the community. As a result, more of the newly arrived Black families began attending services. On July 1, 1928, the first service of the new mission was officially held. More than 300 people turned out to support the new Black-majority congregation. Two decades later, the mission, still going strong, moved into its current location at 6105 S. Michigan Ave.
Adams stayed active in St. Edmund’s throughout her life, her great-granddaughters said. During the Great Depression, she worked with food pantries to keep the community fed, and when World War II broke out, she worked on projects to help the war effort as her son, James Cornelius Adams, was serving in the military.
After Adams passed in 1945, her family continued to attend services at St. Edmund’s. As children, Tina and Lisa Finch heard plenty of stories about their great-grandmother’s work with St. Edmund’s, the Alpha Suffrage Club and the war effort. With all her activities, Adams rarely had time to cook, but she did teach her daughter how to make biscuits, Tina Finch said. She was also a great dresser and likely took part in plenty of church luncheons and teas.
“She wasn’t a thin lady. She had a bulk about her so I know she enjoyed eating the food she liked,” Tina Finch recalled. “She enjoyed socializing.”
St. Edmund’s still welcomes parishioners today and continues to recover from disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tina Finch said. Her children are now the fifth generation of the family to worship at the church where Adams raised money and attended services all those years ago.
Read more about Sadie L. Adams and her lifelong commitments to education and community service. For more on St. Edmund’s, check out ”Behind the Red Doors.“
The 1919 race riots, part of what’s known as the “Red Summer,” may be one of the most horrific chapters in Chicago’s history. While cooling off on a hot July day, Black teenager Eugene Williams floated on a raft with his friends at the 26th street beach on the South Side. When his raft drifted over the imaginary line in the water dividing the beach between white and Black swimmers, a group of white men began throwing rocks at him. One hit him in the head and knocked him into the water where he drowned. Despite police on the scene, no one was arrested.
The pain and anger erupted into riots, leading to several days of violence in Chicago. Between July 27 and Aug. 3, 38 people were killed and another 537 were injured. Another roughly 1,000 Black Chicagoans were left homeless.
During this terrible time, the Chicago Daily News reported extensively on the riots. It also sent photographers to the South Side to capture the destruction.
Here’s a look at some of those photos and more about how they appeared in print.
From the Sun-Times archives
From the Sun-Times archives
The caption from the Chicago History Museum reads: “Crowd of African-American men standing on the sidewalks in front of a Walgreen Drugs at 3501 South State Street during a race riot in Chicago, Illinois, 1919. Police officers are standing at the forefront of the crowd.”
This would be the intersection at 35th and South State Street. Above the Walgreens, there appear to be signs for a pool hall.
A portion of this photo did run in the Daily News on July 30, and the headline above the photo read: “Negro loiters congregated at South State and 35th Streets today.”
A caption below this front-page photo said, “One of many scenes in ‘Black Belt’ showing how throngs of colored men gathered together.” Credit for the photo was given to a staff photographer.
It’s unclear why these men were considered “loiters.” No printed article offers better clarification.
In 1920, the address popped up again in a July 17 story about an alleged “vice den” in the area. Two large gambling houses operated on or near that intersection without any trouble from the police, residents complained. Both white and Black patrons frequented the clubs, which would have been nice except for tensions between the two groups that often led to fights, the paper said. The locals, mainly Black Chicagoans, believed the city was intentionally neglecting the intersection, but thankfully, the city crack down on illegal vice in the area later that year.
From the Sun-Times archives.
From the Sun-Times archives.
The CHM caption for this photo says: “Exterior view of the first floor of a vandalized house and debris in the yard during the race riots of July and August 1919, in Chicago, Illinois.”
Though undated, this photo ran on the front page of the July 31 edition of the Daily News. It ran under the headline, “House wrecked by rioters,” with a separate photo to the left that does not appear in the Daily News’ current archives. Its caption read: “At right — House at 4742 South Wells Street attacked by disturbers.” No staff photographer was named, and this photo does not have a more precise date, which means it was probably taken on either July 30 or 31.
Unfortunately, no more information about this building was included in the paper. The address also did not appear in print again, so it is unclear when the building was either repaired or torn down.
Here’s a second, more complete photo of the same home.
From the Sun-Times archives.
From the Sun-Times archives.
A number of homes were destroyed across the South Side. One brief in the July 30 edition of the paper noted that white rioters set ablaze two buildings at 6531 S. Elizabeth Street where Black residents lived, demolishing the homes completely. “Another building at Aberdeen and 63rd streets, owned by a [Black man] who has lived there with his white wife and several children, was set afire after a mob smashed in all the windows with stones and bricks.”
From the Sun-Times archives.
From the Sun-Times archives.
This photo, though not in the physical Daily News archives unfortunately, is a real find. It ran in the Aug. 1 edition of the paper. The headline reads, “Veterans campaign to end race rioting in Chicago,” and the caption says, “Members of the demobilized 370th Infantry, ‘Old 8th’ Illinois, on tour of pacification among colored people.”
The 370th infantry would have been famous among Black residents on the South Side. It was one of the few Black regiments that served in World War I, and all of its officers were also Black men, according to Kevin Braafladt of the U.S. Army’s official website. Formed in 1898 by Gov. John R. Tanner, the 370th mobilized in Chicago in 1917 and headed to Virginia for training and to join up with the 93rd Division regiments. They completed training in March 1918.
“The men of the 370th fought with distinction in France and Belgium during the war. The soldiers fought hard, so hard that the Germans who fought them gave them the nickname of Schwarze Teufel, ‘Black Devils’ for their ferocity in combat,” Braafladt wrote.
For their actions, members of the 370th earned 21 Distinguished Service Crosses, one Distinguished Service Medal and 68 Croix de Guerre, Braafladt said.
The war had not officially ended by July 1919, but for these soldiers, the sight of so much violence at home would have been heartbreaking and probably jarring to see.
Although the photo ran on Aug. 1, no story ran with it on that day, but on the previous day, the following appeared:
“The mayor places great faith in the 300 colored soldiers, veterans of the ‘Old Eighth,’ which won its laurels overseas in the 370th infantry, whom he ordered Chief Garrity to call out. It is hoped that serious consequences may be averted by the use of negro soldiers against the mobs of colored people, who have been heard to declare that they would rather have colored soldiers bring about law and order than white soldiers to the colored districts.”
So it seems the 370th infantry had a major hand in bringing down tensions over the next few days. By Aug. 3, most of the violence finally came to an end — but those days would forever leave a terrible mark on the city.
So many historical photos and stories about the race riots of 1919 can be found online. Check out the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project for all sorts of biographies and stories tied to the riots. For even more photos, check out “A Few Red Drops: The Chicago Race Riot of 1919” by Claire Hartfield.
From the press box
Payton holds the ball high after breaking the career rushing record. Photo by Bob Ringhan/Chicago Sun-Times.
Payton holds the ball high after breaking the career rushing record. Photo by Bob Ringhan/Chicago Sun-Times.
If your favorite NFL team had a game against the Chicago Bears in 1984, then you probably prayed that running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton would be sitting out with an injury. Luckily for Payton and the Bears, that day never came during such a crucial time for the team and Payton’s career.
Many consider the football legend, who was born July 25, 1954, one of the greatest players to ever hit the field, and Bears fans don’t need much convincing. They were especially proud of Payton when he broke an impressive record on Oct. 7, 1984, about 18 months before he would go on to help the Bears win a Super Bowl.
Before Payton, Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown set records left and right, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 1984, Brown held the record for rushing yards at 12,312. The Browns star never missed a game in his nine years on the team, and he retired right at the peak of his career at age 30, much to the disappointment of his legions of fans.
So it goes without saying that Payton had some big cleats to fill.
On that day in October, the Bears played the New Orleans Saints at Soldier Field. The team planned to run the “Toss 28 Weak,” described by the Sun-Times on Oct. 8 as a “pitchout on which Payton can either cut off tackle or sweep left.” The move gave the running back the opportunity to make a six-yard gain, breaking Brown’s career rushing record.
“To place Payton’s total yardage in perspective,” the Sun-Times said on Oct. 9, “it is more than two miles of hard running on nearly 2,800 carries against really big people.”
After the play, officials handed Payton the ball, and he shook hands with Saints coach Bum Phillips. Then his teammates rushed him mid-field to congratulate him.
“Nervous is an understatement,” he said of his feelings. “I’ve tried to conceal it. But it’s really been hard the last two weeks, I feel relieved.”
Following the record break, the Bears beat the Saints 20-7. To the Saints’ credit, they were far from sore losers.
“We’re all fans of his,” linebacker Jim Kovach told the paper. “It doesn’t matter. He did something historic. I mean, Jim Brown. But it would have been nice to enjoy him getting the record and still win the game.”
Of course, Walter Payton has a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Check out this highlight reel of Payton’s greatest football moments or read this tribute to the player from WGN. For more on Payton’s exciting life, watch the documentary, “Winning in Life,” which was released in 1986 along with the running back’s memoir of the same name.
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