1982 photograph of Stamps speaking at a Chicago city forum.
|Born||M. Marion Adams
May 28, 1945
Jackson, Mississippi, U.S.
|Died||August 28, 1996
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Cause of death
|Other names||Queen Nzinga
Queen of Cabrini
Mother of Cabrini
Member of Illinois chapter Black Panther Party
|Organization||Chicago Housing Tenants Organization|
|Known for||Activism against the displacement and treatment of public housing residents in Chicago.|
Marion Nzinga Stamps (born M. Marion Adams; May 28, 1945 – August 28, 1996) was an African-American community activist who fought for equal rights of public housing residents in the Cabrini-Green housing project on the Near-North Side of Chicago, Illinois, USA. She also helped to elect Chicago's first African-American mayor Harold Washington by organizing a massive voter registration drive in 1983. She was known to be aggressive in her fight to make sure that residents of housing developments had a voice through their violent and harsh living conditions in public housing. In 1993 Stamps began work with many gang leaders throughout Chicago to help end the growing violence between territory and turf wars. In 1994 she and others were able to successfully navigate the first and only citywide gang truce for Chicago.
Born M. Marion Adams in Jackson, Mississippi, Stamps became involved with the civil rights movement under the guidance and direction of Medgar Evers, a former neighbor, at the age of 13. Their goal was to help integrate the Jackson Public Library. Through this fight, she was able to gain insight and mentoring by Mahalia Jackson, a role model.
Marion moved to Chicago in 1963 and quickly became involved in the civil rights movement that was taking place in the city. She moved to the Cabrini-Green housing project at 1230 N. Burling Ave. (the last high-rise building, ultimately demolished in 2011). As a Cabrini resident, she began fighting for better living conditions and many other issues faced by Cabrini residents.
Chicago Housing Tenants Organization (CHTO)
As there were considerably subpar living conditions, group of tenants including Stamps founded the Chicago Housing Tenants Organization (CHTO). Through CHTO, they fought the housing department, addressing major issues with the building. Her work then extended to housing issues throughout the city of Chicago. In the 1980s, Stamp's work and collaboration with other Housing rights organizations became nationwide, and eventually she played a significant role in the first and only successful nationwide rent strike against HUD.
Black Panther Party and volunteer work
Her grassroots work coming from the south to a major city caught the eye of many fighting for civil rights in Chicago. She eventually teamed up with William Darden and the west side organization, helping to organize and galvanize many during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s tenure in Chicago. A little more radical than most, she became a member of the Black Panther Party, working alongside Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. She became associated with the Party's work on the north side of Chicago. She temporarily served as a volunteer worker for Illinois U.S. representative Cardiss Collins during her campaign in 1978.
Tranquility Marksman Memorial Organization
Along with several other women, she helped establish and organize the Tranquility Marksman Memorial Organization (TMMO), which had evolved from CHTO and was named in honor of late activists Tranquility Phillips and Professor Edwin Marksman. Marksman, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago Jane Addams School of Social Work was brutally murdered in 1981. It has been speculated that Marksman was murdered by crooked Chicago Police officers for the work that he and his students were doing on police brutality in Chicago involving former Chicago police commander Jon Burge.
Stamps V. Chicago Mayors
Known as an "In your face" activist, her actions angered mayors. Marion was not shy in holding city politicians accountable for their actions. She helped organize a boycott of the ChicagoFest in 1982 and 1983 which was created by Chicago mayor Michael Bilandic in 1978. When Chicago mayor Jane Byrne moved into the Cabrini-Green project for 30 days in March 1981 with the stated intention of improving conditions, Stamps helped to expose the mayor during what she called a media stunt when she and a group of residents caught the mayor leaving the development each night, having never stayed overnight. Byrne ended the stay at Cabrini after the Easter celebration on April 18, 1981. In 1983 Stamps attempted to organize a rent-strike with other Chicago Housing Authority residents over complaints of poor maintenance which angered newly-elected Mayor Harold Washington. Stamps and Washington had a strong relationship until his death in 1987. In 1994 Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley skipped a news conference on job creation, fearing facing her.
Collaboration on redevelopment of Cabrini
In the months before her death, Stamps changed her opposition against the decision to redevelop Cabrini. She worked with tenants to help them to get the best possible deal in the redevelopment process. She began a successful collaboration with tenants from six Cabrini buildings;
- 1150 N. Sedgwick Ave.
- 1160 N. Sedgwick Ave.
- 500 W. Oak St.
- 502 W. Oak St.
- 1157 N. Cleveland Ave.
- 1159 N. Cleveland Ave.
She also fought to make sure that the residents would obtain Hope VI funding to assist in the transition from living in public housing.
In 1995, she ran in the 27th Ward aldermanic election, but lost to Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. It was one of most highly-financed Aldermanic elections in Chicago, as many fought to keep her from gaining control over the nearly formed racially-mixed 27th Ward. After losing she had planned to move back to her home town to assist with the care of her ailing father.
Death, family, and legacy
Stamps was born with a heart condition that eventually worsened; she died in her sleep on August 28, 1996. She was the mother of five daughters, all of whom became active as teachers, youth program directors, youth programming, and in juvenile justice in impoverished neighborhoods. Her youngest daughter became director of the Marion Nzinga Stamps Youth Center, renamed in Stamps's honor in 1997. A Marion Nzinga Stamps Youth Center is located in the Old Town neighborhood on the Near-North side of Chicago. A street in the Cabrini neighborhood was named in her honor.
- Worrill, PhD, Conrad W. "The Black Commentator - Marion Stamps". Retrieved April 5, 2013.
- Reardon, Patrick T. (August 29, 1996). "Marion Stamps, Cabrini Activist Even After Moving From CHA, She Kept Fighting For Others". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2013.
- Marion Nzinga Stamps Youth Center.