“Chicago Rainbow Beach “wade-in” 1960-61

Fifty years ago this August, history was made on Chicago’s South Side when a group of young Chicagoans waded into the waters of Lake Michigan. Theirs was the simplest of acts — cooling off at the beach on a hot summer’s day — but by violating the segregation that ruled Chicago’s lake front, the waders drew the ire of a violent, angry mob. Cursed, spat on, and pelted with rocks and bottles, two of their number were taken to the hospital. The demonstrators nonetheless vowed to return every weekend until the beach was safe for Chicagoans of all races. In the days and weeks that followed, their courageous stand captured the city’s attention, making headlines and bringing hundreds of supporters to the beach to join them. That first “wade-in” led by the NAACP Youth Council and its President, Velma Murphy Hill, continued at Rainbow Beach through the summers of 1960 and ‘61, eventually compelling the city and the police to protect African-American citizens in their enjoyment of parks and beaches.