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A recurring motif throughout the archive is hearing people from the past describe how they discovered and created new forms of community, especially in the face of social issues and shared struggles. These moments of community-defining often come out of very specific social circumstances, whether it be the Great Depression, the Second World War, the train ride to join the March on Washington in 1963, or the emerging environmental movement.

Sometimes these communities developed hyper-locally, through struggles such as defending a Chicago neighborhood against an unwanted urban renewal plan, finding spontaneous community amidst a Chicago blizzard, or around the unveiling of a controversial new public art project.

The archive also contains powerful examples of people defining community around humanistic activities such as music, science, theater and many other endeavors that transcend personal identities or national boundaries.

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