Young couple in Chicago Winter, 1920s.
No Chinese are known to have been in Chicago until the first trans-continental railyway was completed in 1869. By 1874 there were already 18 laundries and one tea shop in the central part of the Chicago, all managed by Chinese. They came from the Pacific coast for a more tolerant society after anti-Chinese violence broke out in San Francisco, Los Angles, and elsewhere in the western part of the country.
This “Stepping on the Spirit of the Earth Ceremony” is being held at the Morning Glory stationary store on Lawrence Avenue in Chicago. This ceremony is a part of the Korean Lunar New Year’s celebration and performed annually by the Work and Play group. (Courtesy of Korean American Resource and Cultural Center.)
Jishin Balpgi, literally meaning “Stepping on the Spirit of the Earth,” is a traditional folk festival marking the beginning of the Lunar New Year in the Korean calendar dating back more than 4,300 years.
Il Kwa Nori, meaning “Work and Play” in Korean, is composed of Korean American artists who perform traditional Korean percussion ensemble, called poongmul. For centuries, poongmul has been performed by commoners in Korea to celebrate hard work, build courage and hope for the future, give thanks for a good harvest, and generally liven up daily life. For this reason, poongmul is known as music of the people.
Subhash Tailor, one of the first Indian tailoring shops on Devon Avenue in Chicago, opened for business on May 20, 1986.
Subhash Arona’s wife Svarna (seated, left) adjusts Raj Wadhwa’s churidar (leggings) that accompany the tunics traditional in northern India as Rahana Mahmoud and Svarna’s daughters Priti and Tarun look on. As the community grew, families found opportunities to earn a living offering specialized Indian services such as tailoring, catering, and bridal makeup to the original immigrants as well as to their children. (Photo by Mukul Roy.)
A mixed group of Indians, Bangladeshis, and Pakistanis parade together in celebration of Indian Independence Day. They carry a sign that reads, “Join and work for communal harmony.” (RP/WR HS Lerner Newspapers collection.)
West Ridge, 10 miles north of the burgeoning city of Chicago, is home to one of the Midwest’s largest Jewish communities, a hub of Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi culture, and a haven for newcomers from Russia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. “On Devon Avenue, Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis live, eat and work side by side, though they feel political and ethnic pressures back home,” said community leader Sadruddin Noorani. In West Ridge, much to the amazement of outsiders, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians coexist in remarkable contrast to the strife and conflict between these groups in the larger world.
Indian students in front of International House at the University of Chicago in June 1946. Since their visas did not permit them to reenter the U.S. once they left, some chose to forgo the opportunity to return home, and eventually became the very first Indian immigrants of the modern era. (Courtesy of C.K. Chandran.)
After World War II, students and academics arrived in small numbers. Most were on Indian government scholarships and were required to return upon completion of their studies. In the early 1960s, short-term visitors to the U.S. included some 45 Indian engineers who were brought to Inland Steel and U.S. Steel for training in running newly constructed steel mills in India. The selective nature of the 1965 immigration law gave initial preference to skilled professionals but once established, these professionals sponosred their relatives and the community became much more diverse.
A Sunday school class of First Korean United Methodist Church (FKUMC) 1964. (Courtesy of Chang Yong Lee.)
In the late 1960s, Korean American Sunday schools were formed to teach Korean culture and language in the Chicago area. It is believed that the first Korean school was the Chicago Korean School, which was established by the eighth president of the Korean American Association of Chicago, Paul Park and the secretary general of the YMCA, Rev. Young Hee Park. The first classes were held in the YMCA building on Lincoln and Barry Street in 1971. Sook Ja Kim was one of the first Korean language teachers in the Chicago metropolitan area.