The Newberry: Harold Lucas: A Bronzeville Historian’s Lasting Kinship

“Last summer, I interned with the Modern Manuscripts and Archives Team helping to organize the documents of the late Harold Lucas (1942-2022). This collection came to the Newberry in roughly 40 boxes over the course of 2020-2023. Kineyshi Fils-Esperant, my co-intern from Northwestern University, and I had quite a task on our hands, especially considering the subject of the collection was unknown to the both of us. And yet, our lack of knowledge turned out to be a uniquely valuable circumstance. Sifting through the collection gave us a thorough impression of Lucas’s public and private life and legacy without any preconceived notions.

“Lucas is most well known as the Bronzeville Historian (often nicknamed ‘the Godfather of Bronzeville’) who helped save notable landmarks, such as the Supreme Life Insurance Building, from demolition, while also promoting heritage tourism in Chicago’s South Side. But the vast amount of material in this collection indicates that such a brief description hardly encapsulates who Lucas was. Beyond the newspaper articles that detail his exploits in the public eye, there also exists an array of private documents that lent themselves to my ever growing perception of Lucas.

“Harold Lucas’s collection embodies a transcendental vitality. Though Lucas passed away over a year ago, what remains are his documents that draw breath in their housed state. The collection produces a sustainable heartbeat, for it carries a man’s legacy that is alive and kicking.

“Lucas will be remembered for many grand achievements in heritage tourism and landmark preservation, as with the Supreme Life Insurance Building. But within his collection, you’ll find pathways to many simpler, behind-the-scenes moments that detail the life of a loving father. Not only did his children benefit from his compassion, but all the youth of Bronzeville. And through them that compassion endures.” (Marabella, The Newberry, 1/30/24)

Read the full story at The Newberry

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