Chicago History Museum, Research Center, 1601 North Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60614-6038
Introduction to the Red Squad Collection at Chicago History Museum
The Chicago History Museum holds a collection known as the "Chicago Police Department, Red Squad selected records, ca. 1930s-1986 (bulk 1963-1974)." These police records were involved in two federal lawsuits (Alliance to End Repression v. City of Chicago, No. 74 C 3268, and American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois v. City of Chicago, No. 75 C 3295). After these lawsuits were settled, Judge Susan Getzendanner of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, issued an order (Sept. 22, 1987) that deposited these records at the Chicago Historical Society (now the Chicago History Museum) and imposed certain restrictions on access to and disclosure of the records.
Primarily, the collection concerns surveillance of suspected “subversive” groups by the Chicago Police Department (“CPD”), ca. mid-1950s-1974. A few cards contain notations of surveillance as long ago as the 1930s although the cards seem to have been typed in the early 1960s, when information was copied from earlier files/cards that were discarded by CPD long ago. The index cards sometimes refer to files by name or number that relate to the person or organization named on the index card. These files sometimes are included in the collection although some were destroyed routinely by CPD in the years before the collection was transferred to the Chicago Historical Society.
The Collection also includes CPD’s Gang Squad files from the same time period, which contain information about similar surveillance conducted on gangs (and groups labeled as such) and on individuals allegedly affiliated with these groups.
Names and identification numbers of civilian informants and of Surveillance Unit officers were deleted from this collection before it was sent to CHS by the Chicago Police Department.
Researchers should note that information contained in this collection is not necessarily accurate. Some of the information was gathered through various indirect sources, including informants, and was not necessarily subjected to verification before being recorded in the files. Some of the information is known to be inaccurate.
Accessing the Collection
For convenience, this introduction summarizes portions of the Court Order, but researchers will be asked to read the entire Court Order.
After reading the Court Order, researchers must sign and have notarized an Access Affidavit stating that he or she understands and agrees to abide by the Order’s restrictions. A valid, government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport) is required to have the affidavit notarized, and must be shown each day the researcher registers to consult the Collection. Researchers must also sign CHM’s Waiver of Liability and Hold Harmless Agreement in order to access the Red Squad collection.
Please Note: The Affidavit and Waiver are legally binding documents; it is important that researchers understand them before signing. Research Center staff will be happy to answer any questions about these documents and their contents.
CHM is not permitted to tell a researcher specific titles or topics of folders in the collection or provide access to the Collection’s finding aid until the researcher presents the affidavit and Waiver.
Researchers must visit the Research Center in person in order to consult the Red Squad files. You may email the Research Center at Research@chicagohistory.org or write to the address above by U.S. mail to notify the staff of your interest.
Please verify Research Center hours of operation by using our website www.chicagohistory.org/research or by calling the Museum's general number 312-642-4600. Research Center public hours differ somewhat from the hours when the rest of the Museum is open.
Researchers MAY NOT photograph any Red Squad materials. CHM will make photocopies of materials, subject to our regular restrictions and charges.
Researchers Under 18 Years Old
Researchers under the age of 18 must sign and have notarized an Access Affidavit, which requires a government-issued photo ID. CHM cannot accept a student ID instead of a government-issued photo ID; this is a requirement under Illinois law and CHM cannot make exceptions.
Researchers under 18 also must have a parent or guardian sign CHM’s Waiver of Liability and Hold Harmless Agreement for Minors. The parent/guardian does not have to do this in person at the Research Center; the researcher may bring in a completed form.
A parent/guardian does not have to accompany a researcher under 18. However, if the parent/guardian wishes to help the researcher, look at Red Squad material with the researcher, or discuss the information with the researcher, the parent/guardian must also complete the above access procedures.
Using the Information
Even though written permission is no longer required to access the Collection, researchers are still prohibited from disclosing information obtained from this collection about any person or organization without the express consent of that person or organization.
This prohibition includes publishing images of materials or information obtained from the materials in books or journals, posting images or information on the Internet or in other electronic formats, using images or information in school papers or projects, exhibiting images or information, verbally disclosing information from the files, etc.
Obtaining permission from the files’ subjects is the responsibility of the researcher. Research Center staff will provide further instructions on what steps must be taken and offer assistance as it would with any other research project.