One Book, One Oak Park

Listen to poems from A People’s History of Chicago

Listen to “When King Louie First Heard the Word Chiraq.” This is one of 77 poems from Kevin Coval’s A People’s History of Chicago, 2018’s One Book, One Oak Park title. Listen to more poems »

A People’s History of Chicago, by Kevin Coval

From the catalog: “Named Best Chicago Poet by the Chicago Reader, Kevin Coval channels Howard Zinn to celebrate the Windy City’s hidden history. In 77 poems (for the city’s 77 neighborhoods), Coval honors the everyday lives and enduring resistance of the city’s workers, poor people, and people of color, whose cultural and political revolutions continue to shape the social landscape of Chicago.” Library copies are available in print and as ebooks on OverDrive.

Why this title?

“Coval’s poetry is all about empowering hidden voices,” says Librarian and One Book Coordinator Margita Lidaka, adding that “this book covers all the bases, relating so well to the library’s strategic objective to act intentionally to ensure diversity, inclusion, equity, and safety. It is also the first time the library is reading and discussing poetry as a community-wide effort.”

A Peoples History of Chicago by Kevin Coval

About the author

Poet and community builder Kevin Coval is the author of 10 books, editor of The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop, and co-writer of the play This Is Modern Art, which premiered at Steppenwolf Theater in 2015. Additionally, he is the Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors—winner of a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2016—founder of Louder Than A Bomb: The Chicago Youth Poetry Festival, and co-host of the WGN Radio podcast The CornerStore. His work has appeared on The Daily Show, four seasons of HBO’s Def Poetry Jam,, Poetry Magazine, and the blog Fake Shore Drive. He is the editor of the Haymarket Books imprint BreakBeat Publishing, which is dedicated to publishing radically fresh voices and teaches hip-hop poetics in high schools, colleges, and community centers around the globe. Find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @kevincoval.

From “Coval was raised in the suburbs of Chicago and educated at Ohio University, the University of Wales, and DePaul University. His brave, socially engaged poems weave together personal experience and calls to action. The Chicago Tribune has named him “the voice of the new Chicago” and the Boston Globe calls him “the city’s unofficial poet laureate.”

Watch Coval’s appearance on The Daily Show »

Themes to explore

Curious about going deeper? Library staff assembled this list of themes, specific poems (with print edition page numbers), and related content. If you use a theme listed here, or create your own, let us know how it works for you »

The African-American Experience

  • The Great Migration, page 15
  • The Murder of Eugene Williams, page 18
  • Mamie Till Bears the Movement, page 35
  • Martin Luther King Prays in Marquette Park, page 38
  • The Assassination of Chairman Fred Hampton, page 46
  • Lenard Clark Pedals for Air, page 81

Related library resources

The Working Class Experience

  • Albert Parsons Can Hang, page 9
  • Reversing the Flow of the Chicago River, page 14
  • The Eastland Disaster, page 16
  • Republic Windows Workers Sit In, page 94
  • Teachers’ Strike in the Chicago Tradition, page 108

Related library resources

The Latinx, LGBTQ Experience

  • How to Be Down, page 10
  • Society for Human Rights (America’s First Gay Rights Organization), page 19
  • The Division Street Rights, page 37
  • The Assassination of Rudy Lozano, page 58
  • Dia de las Madras, page 89
  • During Ramadan the Gates of Heaven Are Open, page 110

Related library resources

Celebrating the Arts

  • Thomas Dorsey, Gospel’s Daddy, page 21
  • Hansberry vs. Lee, page 26
  • Muddy Waters Goes Electric, page 28
  • Nelson Algren Meets Simone de Beauvoir at The Palmer House, page 29
  • Sun Ra Becomes a Synthesizer, page 33
  • Wall of Respect, page 43
  • AfriCOBRA, page 44
  • Ron Hardy Plays the Record Backwards, page 56
  • An Elegy for Dr. Margaret Burroughs, page 100

Related library resources

Celebrating Poets and Poetry

  • Gwendolyn Brooks Stands in Mecca, page 23
  • Don L. Lee Becomes Haki Madhubuti, page 48
  • Marc Smith Invents the Poetry Slam, page 59
  • How to Teach Poetry in Chicago Public Schools, page 79
  • A Dedication to the Inaugural Poet, page 103

Related library resources

Building the City of Chicago

  • Shikaakwa, page 1
  • Lasalle Wrote It Down Wrong, page 2
  • The Treaty of Chicago, page 6
  • Hog Butcher of the World, page 7
  • The L Gets Open, page 11
  • The white City, page 12
  • king daley Unfurls His burnham Plan, page 36
  • Carl Sandburg Village (Where My Parents Met), page 41
  • The Chicago 21 Plan, page 49

Related library resources

Download Topics to Get Your Group Talking (pdf) »

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