Chicago 1968

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2015


Church work, Segregation, Civil rights, Civil rights demonstrations, Civil rights movements, Black Panthers Party, Vietnam War, social justice, equality, Catholic, St. Sabina, Quigley High School, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., social movements, Precious Blood Church, Loyola University, Democratic National Convention, Chicago, Illinois


Cultural History | History | Political History | Political Science | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion | Social History | United States History


Length: 76 minutes

Interview with Reverend Michael Pfleger by Jesse Betend.

In his interview with Jesse Betend, Reverend Michael Pfleger discusses his life leading up to his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement in 1968. He recalls how his childhood and early experiences affected his later work, his religious yet very progressively outspoken family and attending a highly diverse high school (Quigley Preparatory Seminary South). He recalls his first exposures to racism and segregation through family friends, classmates, and work with Native American and Black communities. He describes the violence perpetrated by his own community during a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1966, who became a highly influential figure in his life, including in his decision to join the priesthood. He discusses his studies in college and his early days working and living at Precious Blood Parish, which led to his involvement with the Black Panthers, who met at the parish youth center. From there, he met activists Larry Johnson, Fred Hampton, and Mark Clark and he volunteered with the organization regularly. He discusses how civil rights activism was the driving force behind his motivation to join the priesthood, the “DNA” of his faith. He recalls his involvement with the anti-Vietnam war protests, the police violence at DNC protests in 1968, and his continuing faith that individuals can be agents of change.

Biography and Comments

Since 1968, Father Michael Pfleger has lived and ministered in the African American communities on the west and south sides of Chicago and became an ordained priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago in 1975. Since 1981 he has been pastor of the Saint Sabina Parish, a Catholic church in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood. He has been recognized for his commitment to equality and passionate stance against injustice both locally and nationally.

The interviewer conducted this oral history as part of his/her coursework for the Spring 2015 class, Oral History: The Art of the Interview. This project was completed in collaboration with the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago and the College Archives & Special Collections department at Columbia College Chicago. Contact for more information.

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