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Obama Chooses Historic Chicago South Side Location For Presidential Library: Will it Help Black Employment?



Barack and Michelle Obama have chosen the location of the U.S. leader’s future presidential library. The couple picked Jackson Park located in Chicago, Illinois’ South Side, an area stricken by gun violence and poverty. It remains to be seen if the Obamas will employ Black residents to handle business at the library.

A source broke the news to The Washington Post July 27 anonymously since the decision has not been made public yet. A formal announcement should be made in the coming days.

Obama’s presidential library was always going to be located on the South Side. The choice was between two historic parks suggested by administrators at the University of Chicago: Jackson Park or Washington Park. The Obama Foundation is managing the library’s design and construction. Last month it revealed Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects will design the library, museum and office space.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the library – called Barack Obama Presidential Center – will begin construction after Obama leaves office in January 2017. It should by complete by 2021. $500 million has been invested in the project, which is one of the city’s most publicized plans at the moment.

With a white firm at the helm for its design, some wonder if the building will open up employment opportunities for Black residents A Bookings report this year said 47 percent of the Black population ages 20 t0 24 are unemployed. Compared to 3.3 percent of whites, young Black adults are seven times as likely to be out of work and school. Because of the state of  so-called disconnected youth, there are fears Blacks in that age range face greater risks of poverty, long-term unemployment, substance abuse, criminality and incarceration. Additionally, the city has the biggest racial gap in unemployment among white and Black groups.

Before the Bookings report was released, the Economic Policy Institute released a study revealing Illinois had the worst Black unemployment rate in the country for the first quarter of the year.  14.1 percent of Blacks were unemployed compared to 5 percent of whites.

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