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Remembering heroes on Chicago’s amazing Legacy Walk

Two of the pylon's on Chicago's LGBT Legacy Walk
Two of the pylon’s on Chicago’s LGBT Legacy Walk (Photo: The Legacy Project)

Chicago’s Boystown district is one of the most celebrated gayborhoods in the world. It’s only fitting that besides having one of the country’s leading LGBTQ centers (The Center on Halsted), it also has one of the biggest memorials to those who helped pave the way for our rights.

The idea for the city’s Legacy Walk – part outdoor history installation and part museum – was first suggested in the late 1980s. It took more than two decades for it to become a reality. It consists of 25-foot tall rainbow pylons placed along North Halsted Street.

Related: Chicago’s Boystown district

The first steel pylon, placed by the city to acknowledge the center of the district, was unveiled in 1998. This provided the perfect location from which the walk could be based. The Legacy’s Walk’s first 18 pylons were dedicated on National Coming Out Day, October 11, 2012. Since then, each year, further pylons have been added. They feature bronze plaques with information about notable activists and figures.

There are now 40 bronze memorials. The idea is that anyone, but particularly young people, can read about our leaders. They can also scan a barcode to download videos and further education resources.

Figures commemorated on this “outdoor classroom” include Walt Whitman, James Baldwin, Alfred Kinsey, Keith Haring, Frida Kahlo, Bayard Rustin, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera and Vito Russo, among others. And it’s not just individuals: there’s also information on The Stonewall Riots and Two-Spirit People.

Legacy Project in Chicago
Photo: The Legacy Project

The walk as granted Historic Landmark status in 2019 for being the only installation of its kind in the world. Its allocated space along North Halstead has now been filled up. Starting in 2020, some of the older bronze memorials will be rotated off the walk and placed in a Visitors Center, expected to open in 2021.

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The walk is overseen by the Legacy Project, which also operates the Legacy Wall. Similar in concept to the walk, the wall is a digitally-interactive, traveling exhibit that features mini-biographies of historical LGBTQ figures.


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Today the Legacy Project is honored to commemorate the birth of Civil Rights icon BAYARD RUSTIN who was born on March 17, 1912 in Westchester, PA. An openly gay man throughout most of his long adult life, Rustin was instrumental in so many watershed moments during the Civil Rights era it is impossible to recount them here. (Read the bio!) A bronze memorial in his honor was unveiled as part of the Inaugural Dedication of Chicago’s Legacy Walk on October 11, 2012, thanks to the generosity of #EqualityIllinois. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in November 2013. The Rustin plaque – located at 3314 N. Halsted – is one of the most popular on the Legacy Walk, which is toured regularly by student groups participating in the Legacy Project Education Initiative. Read more about #BayardRustin at… http://legacyprojectchicago.org/Bayard_Rustin.html

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ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENTIAL WOMEN IN POLITICS… Today the Legacy Project commemorates the passing of U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-Texas). Jordan was the first African American woman to be elected to Congress from a Southern state; the first to deliver the keynote address at a national presidential convention (1976); and the only person to deliver TWO keynotes at a convention when she was tapped to place Bill Clinton’s name into nomination. Jordan rose to national prominence during the impeachment of President Richard M. Nixon. She was among the Inaugural Class of 2012 when a bronze memorial marker was dedicated in her honor on Chicago’s Legacy Walk, thanks to the generosity of #LeviStrauss. Her bronze memorial can be found at 3512 N. Halsted. She passed away on January 17, 1996 from pneumonia, after a long battle with leukemia. Learn more about #BarbaraJordan at… http://legacyprojectchicago.org/Barbara_Jordan.html

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