Decades-old housing discrimination in Chicagoland revealed through powerful new, photography exhibition, In Focus:The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Fight for Fair Housing

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Decades-old housing discrimination in Chicagoland revealed through
powerful new, photography exhibition,
In Focus:The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Fight for Fair Housing

Open March 4 – June 20, 2021at the Elmhurst Art Museum,
Plus, There is Black Housing in the Future exhibition now open at the McCormick House

(February 8, 2020) As conversations surrounding systemic racism continue throughout the nation, the Elmhurst Art Museum proudly presents a myriad of programs that reveal historic and contemporary responses to fair housing in Chicagoland, including the signature photography exhibition, In Focus: The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Fight for Fair Housing, openingMarch 4 through June 20, 2021. And in advance, in association with Black History Month, is the newly opened exhibition, There is Black Housing in the Future: Equitable Public Housing as Memorial, in the Museum’s historic McCormick House and is also on view through June 20, 2021.

In Focus exposes systemic issues surrounding housing opportunities in Chicago and suburbs and how housing restrictions have been informed by an extensive history of race-based discrimination. The centerpiece of the exhibition features 40 historic images by Wheaton-based photographer and activist Bernard Kleina, who captured some of the first-ever color photographs of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. These photographs provide context for the 1965-67 movement led by Dr. King, James Bevel, and Al Raby, who inspired the milestone Fair Housing Act of 1968.

Complementing the historic perspective, In Focus includes recent photographs of summer 2020 protests taken by 21-year-old Chicago photographer Vashon Jordan Jr, statistical graphics, maps, and first-person accounts provided by fair housing activists and organizations, plus written insights from race, class, and communities journalist Natalie Moore, award-winning author of “The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation.”

The exhibition will also debut a collaborative project between the Design Museum of Chicago, Elmhurst Art Museum’s Teen Council, and York Community High School’s Black Student Union, featuring photographs by teens in response to quotes about fair housing from historic and contemporary activists and leaders. The exhibition concludes with “The Movement Is Not Over,” an action center (also available online), providing a wealth of resources that equip visitors with anti-racism tools to inspire lasting change in their own communities.

“Fair housing is often talked about as a city issue, but reports show decades-long discriminatory practices in suburban and rural areas as well. Confronting this widespread systemic issue is an uncomfortable but necessary step to become more equitable and diverse.” said John McKinnon, Executive Director of Elmhurst Art Museum. “We are honored to present the important work of artists, activists, and partner organizations as a collective effort that can affect change.”

Other exhibition-contributing partners include the HOPE Fair Housing Center, National Public Housing Museum, Elmhurst History Museum, and The HistoryMakers.

Exhibition-related winter programming expanding on the work of the Chicago Freedom Movement and continued fights for fair housing and racial equity include:

There is Black Housing in the Future: Equitable Public Housing as Memorial
Exhibition now open through June 20, 2021, free with Museum admission
This two-person installation in the Museum’s historic McCormick House by Pittsburgh-based Alisha Wormsley and Chicago-based Ayanah Moorwas created as a means of activism and education to support mothers fighting for the future of Black housing. The exhibition references national, community, and grassroots organizations like Moms 4 Housing that advocate for affordable, dignified housing for all. There is Black Housing in the Future is inspired by Afro-Futurist artists and writers who affirm the visibility and well-being of Black communities across notions of space and time. An artist-designed activity for youth complements this installation to produce message-based posters, yard signs, and even kites to support their communities’ voices.

The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Radical King
Virtual program now available via Elmhurst Art Museum’s “Museum From Home” online hub at
Co-presented by the National Public Housing Museum, this program features activists and scholars who share stories that challenge viewers to grapple with the lessons taught by MLK.

Virtual Artist Talk: The Most Disliked Man in DuPage County, Bernard Kleina
Thursday, March 11, 9 a.m., free to the public
In this pre-recorded interview, activist and photographer Bernard Kleina shares stories about his activist origins, participation in historic marches with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma and Chicago, the founding of HOPE Fair Housing Center, and more. As Director of HOPE, Kleina fought for fair housing, despite intense opposition from county officials and residents. In the 1980s a local newspaper named him “The Most Disliked Man in DuPage County.”

Additional exhibition-related programs to be announced in March 2021.

In Focus: The Chicago Freedom Movement and the Fight for Fair Housing is generously sponsored by the JCS Arts, Health and Education Fund of the DuPage Foundation and David C. & Sarajean Ruttenberg Arts Foundation. There is Black Housing in the Future: Equitable Public Housing as Memorial is supported by the Goethe-Institut and Wunderbar Together.

COVID-19 Protocol
The Museum encourages non-members to purchase tickets online in advance of visiting the Museum. Members, children, and students may check-in without an advance ticket purchase. All visitors must wear a face mask and are asked to review the Museum’s COVID-19 protocols before visiting at

The Museum’s galleries are open in accordance with the Restore Illinois Plan to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Current hours: Monday – Wednesday (closed), Thursday – Sunday (12:00pm – 5:00 pm). Members only hours Saturday and Sunday (11:00am-12pm). The first Friday of every month is free.

About the McCormick House
In 1952, the renowned modern architect Mies van der Rohe designed a home for Robert Hall McCormick III, a member of Chicago’s most prominent families, and his wife, the poet Isabella Gardner. The home is a rare and important example of Mies van der Rohe’s mature style, incorporating elements of his celebrated designs for the Farnsworth House (1951) and 860-880 Lake Shore Drive (1951). The McCormick House—one of only three single-family homes designed by Mies in the United States—originally served two purposes: it was a home for the McCormick family and a prototype for a proposed group of smaller, affordable mass-produced modular homes in the western Chicago suburbs that McCormick and co-developer Herbert S. Greenwald were hoping to build. However, the cutting-edge, high-end buildings were not met with enough buyers to begin construction.

About the Elmhurst Art Museum
The Museum is located at 150 South Cottage Hill Avenue in Elmhurst (IL), 25 minutes from downtown Chicago by car or public transportation (Metra). The Museum is both an international destination for Mies van der Rohe scholars and fans and a regional center where people from Chicago and the western suburbs learn to see and think differently through the study of the art, architecture and design of our time. The Museum is one block from the Elmhurst Metra station. Admission is $15 ($12 for seniors) and free for students and children under 18.

For more information, visit

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