CHICAGO — A newly-acquired collection at the Newberry Library gives a glimpse into Chicago’s role during The Great Migration of African Americans.

The images, which are believed to have been produced by the Methodist Episcopal Church between 1922-1923 on the Near North Side, offers a tremendous and clear look at how life was for those trying getting used to new life in The North. The photographs are thought to be mostly from the late 1910s and early 1920s.

The Newberry Library was able to acquire them last fall at an auction for items related to African American history and they “immediately jumped out” to curator Will Hansen.

“The images are so beautiful and powerful,” Hansen said. “As far as we could tell — we could not find another set of these.”

A dress making class in Chicago, courtesy Newberry Library

In their mission to preserve history and keep it available for generations to come, the library made the purchase and began researching. Few, if any, of the images have ever been published.

The 44 glass lantern slides were falling out of popularity in the 1920s, but the hand-coloring and way they were produced gives off a striking high-quality.

“The quality of the image is superior to most of the film slides that were more common,” Hansen said. “They were more popular in the 1890s and early 1900s.”

Out of the 44 images, several are in Chicago and one shows a settlement house in Gary. As the Great Migration was roaring, Black churches, like St. Mark and South Park Methodist, played a pivotal role in helping newcomers with employment, day care and other services.

St. Mark Church, courtesy Newberry Library

The settlement house in Gary, called The Stewart House, took pride one winter with helping settle 144 African Americans, Hansen said. In 2014, the State of Indiana designated it as a historical landmark.

The Stewart House in Gary, Courtesy Newberry Library

In Chicago, the slides were given to Black churches, which used them to help with fundraising efforts. Hansen theorized that parishioners would view them during fundraisers as an activity or after church.

Long before young Chicagoans were hitting the blacktop dreaming of being Michael Jordan or Derrick Rose, the collection shows the 1921-22 champions of the Chicago Church League.

Chicago Church League champions, courtesy Newberry Library

When asked what is his favorite piece is, Hansen had a hard time picking one — but mentioned how the following image in Louisville shows the time period perfectly.

Louisville home after WWI, courtesy Newberry Library

“A social worker is visiting a family in tenement housing and it shows three children playing on the floor. You got this homemade flag behind her and a calendar that has a Bald Eagle, a man’s hat on the bed,” Hansen said. “But there was such a shadow of World War I that so many African Americans fought in. They wanted equality. They served their country and fought for democracy.”

The slides are the most complete set known to survive from The Great Migration, Newberry said.

Because the slides are very fragile, Newberry Library is pointing interested patrons to view the images online. In person, the case is available to see.

To view the rest of the collection, click here.