The Bud Billiken Parade through the years

Here is a look back at the history of this beloved annual event in Chicago.

August 13, 2022, 9:21 AM

Certain iconic imagery brings to mind traditional American summer activities: the smell of hamburgers cooking on a grill, marching bands with drum lines and kids catching candy thrown from colorful floats. These are all a part of the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago.

First held in 1929, the Bud Billiken Parade is the largest African American parade in the United States, according to its organizers. It's also one of the three largest parades in the country overall, along with the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Every year on the second Saturday of August, participants of the Bud Billiken Parade march and dance their way through the streets of Chicago.

Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper, and his editor, David Kellum, created the fictional character Bud Billiken in 1923 as a mascot for a youth group they had set up in the community. A Billiken is a mythical good-luck figure that was popular in the early part of the 20th century. Kellum then decided to have a day of celebration for Black youth and the Bud Billiken Parade was born.

Like many other public events, the parade was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

"As our community continues to recover from the effects of the pandemic over the past couple of years, it is exciting that we are able to come together this year and celebrate the students of Chicago as they head back to school," said the Bud Billiken Parade chair, Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, who is also the president and CEO of Chicago Defender Charities.

The 93rd annual Bud Billiken Parade will kick off on Aug. 13. Here is a look back at the history of this beloved annual event.

1934

PHOTO: Various dignitaries are shown in this group portrait taken at the Bud Billiken parade in Chicago in 1934. Among those pictured are the parade's founder, Robert Sengstacke Abbott, and musicians Duke Ellington and Earl Hines.
Various dignitaries are shown in this group portrait taken at the Bud Billiken parade in Chicago in 1934. Among those pictured are the parade's founder, newspaper publisher Robert Sengstacke Abbott (front row, second right) and musicians Duke Ellington (back row, fourth left) and Earl Hines (back row, third right.)
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers via Getty Images

1948

PHOTO: Former heavyweight boxer Joe Louis shakes hands with Chicago mayor Martin H. Kennelly at the Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender newspaper whose publisher, John H Sengstacke (second left) watches, in Chicago, in 1948.
Former heavyweight boxer Joe Louis shakes hands with Chicago mayor Martin H. Kennelly at the Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender newspaper whose publisher, John H Sengstacke (second left) watches, in Chicago, in 1948.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers via Getty Images

1956

PHOTO: Former president Harry Truman, Chicago Defender publisher John H. Sengstacke, and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, wave to the crowd as they ride on a convertible at the Bud Billiken parade, in Chicago, in 1956.
Former president Harry Truman, Chicago Defender publisher John H. Sengstacke, and Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, wave to the crowd as they ride on a convertible at the Bud Billiken parade, in Chicago, in 1956.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers via Getty Images

1958

PHOTO: Representatives of the Joe Louis Milk Company ride atop their float, during the annual Bud Billiken Day parade, in Chicago, in 1958.
Representatives of the Joe Louis Milk Company ride atop their float, during the annual Bud Billiken Day parade, in Chicago, in 1958.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers via Getty Images

1966

PHOTO: Singer James Brown and boxing champ Muhammad Ali smile and greet parade-goers while participating in the annual Bud Billiken parade, in Chicago, Aug. 1966.
Singer James Brown and boxing champ Muhammad Ali smile and greet parade-goers while participating in the annual Bud Billiken parade, in Chicago, Aug. 1966.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

1967

PHOTO: Crowds line up along the street to watch the Bud Billiken Day parade, Chicago, in 1967.
Crowds line up along the street to watch the Bud Billiken Day parade, Chicago, in 1967.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images
PHOTO: A drummer with the Roosevelt marching band performs in the Bud Billiken Day parade, in Chicago, in 1967.
A drummer with the Roosevelt marching band performs in the Bud Billiken Day parade, in Chicago, in 1967.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images
PHOTO: Miss 2nd Ward and her court smile and wave while riding in a convertible during the Bud Billiken Day parade, Chicago, in 1967.
Miss 2nd Ward and her court smile and wave while riding in a convertible during the Bud Billiken Day parade, Chicago, in 1967.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images
PHOTO: The king and queen of the Bud Billiken Day parade wave to the crowd while riding on a float during the parade, in Chicago, in 1967.
The king and queen of the Bud Billiken Day parade wave to the crowd while riding on a float during the parade, in Chicago, in 1967.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

1973

PHOTO: Illinois Governor Dan Walker greets Chicago constituents during the Bud Billiken Day parade, in Chicago, 1973.
Illinois Governor Dan Walker greets Chicago constituents during the Bud Billiken Day parade, in Chicago, 1973.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
PHOTO: Women sit on a float during the Bud Billiken Day parade in Chicago, in August, 1973.
Women sit on a float during the Bud Billiken Day parade in Chicago, in August, 1973.
John White/US National Archives via Getty Images

1984

PHOTO: A uniformed officer hands treats and candies out to members of the crowd watching the annual Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender, in Chicago, in 1984.
A uniformed officer hands treats and candies out to members of the crowd watching the annual Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender, in Chicago, in 1984.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers via Getty Images
PHOTO: Cheerleaders from a local school walk the parade route during the annual Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender, in Chicago, in 1984.
Cheerleaders from a local school walk the parade route during the annual Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender, in Chicago, in 1984.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers via Getty Images

1985

PHOTO: Civil Rights leader and politician Jesse Jackson gives a 'thumbs up' as he greets supporters from the roof of an car during the Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender, in Chicago, in 1985.
Civil Rights leader and politician Jesse Jackson gives a 'thumbs up' as he greets supporters from the roof of an car during the Bud Billiken parade, sponsored by the Chicago Defender, in Chicago, in 1985.
Robert Abbott Sengstacke/The Abbott Sengstacke Family Papers via Getty Images

2004

PHOTO: Barack Obama, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois, campaigns during the Bud Billiken parade, Aug. 14, 2004, on the South Side of Chicago. Obama marched the parade route with his wife Michelle and several hundred supporters.
Barack Obama, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Illinois, campaigns during the Bud Billiken parade, Aug. 14, 2004, on the South Side of Chicago. Obama marched the parade route with his wife Michelle and several hundred supporters.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

2016

PHOTO: People dressed as Captain America march during the 87th "Bud Billiken Parade" on Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
People dressed as Captain America march during the 87th "Bud Billiken Parade" on Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
PHOTO: People dressed as Star Wars’ stormtroopers dance during the 87th "Bud Billiken Parade" on Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
People dressed as Star Wars’ stormtroopers dance during the 87th "Bud Billiken Parade" on Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
PHOTO: A band marches during the 87th Bud Billiken Parade on Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
A band marches during the 87th Bud Billiken Parade on Martin Luther King Drive in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
PHOTO: A man cooks hamburgers on a grill along the parade route during the 87th "Bud Billiken Parade" in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
A man cooks hamburgers on a grill along the parade route during the 87th "Bud Billiken Parade" in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
Bilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
PHOTO: The Jesse White Tumbling Team performs in the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
The Jesse White Tumbling Team performs in the Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on Aug. 13, 2016.
Max Herman/NurPhoto via Getty Images

2017

PHOTO: Chance the Rapper attends the 88th Annual Bud Billiken Parade on Aug. 12, 2017, in Chicago.
Chance the Rapper attends the 88th Annual Bud Billiken Parade on Aug. 12, 2017, in Chicago.
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

2019

PHOTO: Costumed dancers participate in the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on Aug. 10, 2019.
Costumed dancers participate in the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on Aug. 10, 2019.
Xinhua via ZUMA Wire
PHOTO: A woman bedecked in feathers marches in the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on Aug. 10, 2019.
A woman bedecked in feathers marches in the annual Bud Billiken Parade in Chicago, on Aug. 10, 2019.
Xinhua via ZUMA Wire
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