Chicago History | Spring 2020

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Education, Politics, and Race in Chicago, 1926–67 Built as part of Chicago’s junior high experiment, Emil G. Hirsch School saw its share of social and political turmoil in the mid-twentieth century. W I L L I A M A . H O I S I N GT O N J R .

hicago public schools have weathered changes from the strategies of school superintendents to cronyism in city politics, from the economic effects of world wars and the Great Depression to US Supreme Court decisions. Starting in 1924, Chicago schools underwent a major change that introduced junior high schools as a three-year landing point for adolescents between elementary and high school. The junior high system ended in 1933, in part due to personnel clashing and political changes at the city level. Politics would continue to affect the structure of Chicago public schools, leading to protests and student action. At the center of many of these changes was Emil G. Hirsch Junior High School (now Emil G. Hirsch Metropolitan High School), which sits on the western boundary of historic Grand Crossing Park at 7740 South Ingleside Avenue. In August 1925, an architect’s rendering of the new junior high school appeared in the Chicago Tribune, and the school opened for classes on September 1, 1926.1 The school was as impressive as its namesake, the Rabbi Emil Gustav Hirsch, the leader for over forty years of the Chicago Sinai Congregation, a large and influential “radical” Reform


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Portrait of Dr. Emil G. Hirsch, a Reform movement rabbi. Emil G. Hirsch Metropolitan High School, located at South Ingleside Ave. and 78th street, opened in 1926.

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