At 33RD street and Wabash Avenue in Chicago lived the first black amusement park called Joyland. Joyland Park was established in 1923 by W.C.S. & S Amusement Company. Joyland was designed to entertain the growing number of African Americans in the Bronzeville neighborhood of south side Chicago.
It was “come one, come all” for free attractions with performances by the Joyland Jazzers and dance halls. The park would showcase a merry-go-round, Venetian swing, whip and ferris wheel. It was called “a better alernative to the city cabarets,” though the owners of those venues would put up a fight against the new family-friendly parks. Some politicians and vaudeville owners lobbied against Joyland’s license renewals because it was taking away their local customers.
Though it only covered two acres of land, Joyland was one of the largest amusement parks in the United States that was owned and operated by African Americans. Among the founders of the park were Augustus Williams, who was the lead attorney for several cases related to Chicago’s 1919 race riots, Virgil Williams, Robert Abbot and editor Julius Taylor.
Unfortunately, the life span of Joyland Park was short lived with only one or two seasons of operation. It was tough to keep the doors open during the growth of the jazz age and expansion of nightclubs. It shut down in 1925. The area where the park was once located is now a parking lot for the Illinois Institute of Technology.