This monument was created by sculptor Leonard Crunelle in 1927. Located at Martin Luther King Drive and 35th Street in the neighborhood known as Bronzeville, the Victory Monument honors the men of the Eighth Regiment of the Illinois National Guard. This African American regiment is known for driving German forces from the Aisne-Marne region prior to the Armistice that ended the war on November 11, 1918.
Backstory and Context
The "Fighting Eighth" received acclaim for being the regiment that finally pushed German forces from France's Aisne-Marne region prior to the 1918 Armistice. As a result, the 370th Infantry Regiment (renamed during WWI) was awarded 71 War Crosses with special citations for valor and merit and 21 Distinguished Service Crosses. The regiment's commander, General Jones, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for valor in battle.2
It can also be argued that the monument speaks more to increasing influence of black Americans in Chicago during the early 20th century than it does the 8th Regiment. The Great Migration into Chicago gained tremendous momentum during World War I as European immigration nearly ceased and jobs opened up in cities such as Chicago. The push of Southern racism and segregation (and a belief it was better in the North) further helped push Southern black Americans to Chicago with hopes of finding work and a better life.4
Tens of thousands of black Southern Americans migrated to Chicago and began to form neighborhoods -- some very large -- that were almost exclusively black, including where the monument is located. An entire culture of jazz and blues clubs formed, restaurants with southern cooking emerged, and the aforementioned Chicago Defender newspaper grew increasingly influential. As such, Chicago's south side was not only a "black neighborhood," but almost 98% black and hugely influential in broader city politics, notably as the overall population began to decline, which some argue is part of the "white flight" where whites fled the city for the burbs as a result of the influx of black Americans. The monument exists in the heart of that region, and notes how Chicago's population, notably African Americans, had begun to dominate the southern portions. 5
2 Emmett J. Scott, AM., LL.D, Special Adjutant to Secretary of War, Scott's Official History of the American Negro in the World War (Homewood Press, 1919), Chapter 8.
3 Dempsey J. Travis, "Bronzeville," Encyclopedia of Chicago, chicagohistory.org, last accessed November 15, 2016; http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/171.html; James Grossman, "Great Migration," Encyclopedia of Chicago, last accessed November 15, 2016, http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/545.html ; Wallace Best, "Chicago Defender," Encyclopedia of Chicago, last accessed November, 16, 2016 http://encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/248.html.
4 James R. Grossman, "African-American Migration to Chicago," in Ethnic Chicago: A Multicultural Portrait, ed. Melvin G. Holli and Peter d'A. Jones (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995), 303-340.
5 Arnold R. Hirsch, "The Second Ghetto and the Dynamics of Neighborhood Change," in The American Urban Reader History and Theory, ed. Steven H. Corey and Lisa Krissoff Boehm (New York: Routledge, 2011), 362-369.