This month marks the 52nd year since Chicago’s Division Street riots of 1966. In conjunction with this anniversary, DePaul Special Collections and Archives is proud to announce a soon-to-be-available collection related to the June 12-14 events and the West Town community of that time. The Janet Nolan Ethnographic Research on Puerto Ricans in Chicago collection features over 3500 pages of ethnographic notes and transcribed interviews of West Town residents from April 1966 through July 1967. These typed notes on onionskin paper document the experiences of people living in poverty during this contentious time.
In a 1967 report to John Cardinal Cody, Janet Nolan (then Janet Parmalee, a Catholic nun from the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic) described her assignment as “conducting research under the auspices of the University of Notre Dame for [President Lyndon Johnson’s] War on Poverty.” Janet set up an “information center” on Evergreen Avenue where local residents could receive help finding needed resources such as health care and employment, and find interpreters who would accompany people to appointments at schools, courts, hospitals, etc. These recorded interactions deal with numerous topics such as poverty, health care, gender roles, housing, employment, and policing. Members of the Latin Kings used the center as a hangout – many of their experiences and histories are recorded as well. Also, the Division Street riots occurred shortly after the center opened, so many accounts were taken of the events surrounding a policeman shooting a Puerto Rican man and the subsequent clash between the community and police.
Because the Janet Nolan Ethnographic Research on Puerto Ricans in Chicago collection features personal information about the lives of the people being profiled, the papers will primarily be available to researchers in the form of redacted PDF files. Researcher Michael Staudenmaier created the original PDFs from Janet’s papers for his own dissertation research. Understanding the importance of sharing these documents more widely, he ultimately connected Janet and DePaul which led to the donation of her papers. Anyone interested in viewing the collection at this time is welcome to contact Special Collections for further information.