Members of Chicago’s South Side black community line a portion of Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive to watch the annual Bud Billiken Day Parade. Up to half a million people view one of the largest events of the year, held for blacks of all ages and economic status. The parade includes black politicians, black business displaying their products, black bands and black beauties of all ages. August 1973.
Woman riding a float in the annual Bud Billiken Day Parade in Chicago, Illinois (August 1973). The Bud Billiken Day Parade and Picnic is the oldest and largest African American parade in the U.S. Founded in 1929 by Chicago Defender editor Robert Sengstacke, the parade’s original purpose was to give underprivileged youth a day in the limelight. The event is held every August on Chicago’s South Side.
This photograph was taken by John H. White, as part of the EPA’s Documerica project.
Today is the 86th annual Bud Billiken Parade, the country’s oldest and largest African American focused parade.
What you might not know is that Bud Billiken is not an actual person. More of a mascot, the persona of Billiken was created by Chicago Defender founder Robert Sengestacke Abbott and Defender editor Lucius Harper.
The billiken, a smiling, rotund, elfin creature, popular in the early 1900s, became the mascot for the Bud Billiken Club when Abbott spotted a jolly deity on the door of a Chinese restaurant; upon learning that the jolly deity was the protector of children, he adopted the billiken as mascot of the Club. Later in 1923, the eleven-year-old boy Willard Motley submitted a drawing to the Chicago Defender of a pudgy and cheerful boy, which Abbott named the “new Billikin”. The name “Bud Billiken” is a pseudonym that Abbott selected for the organization, using his own nickname “Bud”; the word “Billiken” was believed to be in reference to a character in Chinese mythology who was the protector of children. Though the billiken was actually created by an American woman in 1908, the figure still represented the guardian angel and patron of children and Abbott placed Motley’s drawing on the paper’s children’s page, the Defender Junior. Known as “the first Billiken,” Motley continued to pen drawings for the Defender Junior for the next seven years.
The “Rules of the Bud Billiken Club” guided youth to take pride in their race and to strive towards middle class respectability. It was also meant as a way to give underprivileged children a creative outlet and a chance to shine in the limelight. Over the years Bud Billiken became the mascot not only for the children’s page, but for the whole newspaper. Abbott organized dozens of Bud Billiken Clubs nationwide for children who pledged to read the Defender.
Photos from the Bud Billiken Parade, the largest black parade in the United States. The parade takes place on Chicago’s South Side and is in its 86th year. This year’s theme was “Education: It’s an order!”(Photos by Max Herman Photo) 8/8/2015