< Back to all News


New Maxwell St. Market is Chicago’s Agora

Hi Student member of a University of Illinois at Chicago organization,

Please share this invitation and accompanying fact sheet with other students by posting in social media and sending to your email lists.

The New Maxwell Street Market, run by the City of Chicago, is at your doorstep and is Chicago’s Agora: a hub for food, clothing, art, and socializing in which great ideas are created and exchanged. Ironically, this contemporary Agora is two blocks away from Greektown and the National Hellenic Museum.

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle frequented the Athenian Agora where they discussed philosophy and instructed pupils. Scientific theory got its start there, as well as the foundations of democracy. Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, and Pythagoras, a mathematician, were both public figures who shared ideas in their hometown Agoras.

At the south end of UIC’s campus was the Old Maxwell Street neighborhood that had one of the largest outdoor markets in America. It was a place where people like Nelson Algren, Willard Motley, Studs Terkel, Saul Alinsky, and Carl Sandburg hung out and wrote about; and musicians such as Papa Charlie Jackson, Muddy Waters, Little Walter Jacobs, and Johnnie Mae Dunnson, sang its praises. In 1994 it was destroyed by the City of Chicago and your University to fulfill the gentrification urban planning vision of Mayor Daley.

Since 1994, the number of vendors at the New Maxwell Street Market has steadily declined. But up until 2019, some flavor of the Old Market remained. Since Covid, the Market has declined further.

However, the focus of the Agora Project is on the future. We seek your participation in revitalizing the New Maxwell Street Market. Be a shopper for sure. But also consider being a vendor. Try out your business ideas at low cost.

It is free to entertain and put out a bucket to get donations. Show off your skills at music, dance, poetry, and theater.

It is free to shop. There are cool cheap retro and used things to buy and great inexpensive food sold at tent- covered street restaurants where Anthony Bourdain, Andrew Zimmern, Rick Bayless, and Action Bronson ate. Check out the food by entering the words: Maria Nobol Maxwell Street Food, in the youtube search box.

Most of all, bring your family, friends, and energy to be part of the Maxwell St. renaissance, a place for sharing ideas, helping immigrant and minority communities, and as a way to give back for all the advantages you have had in your life.

If you, or your class, or your organization have knowledge or skills that can help the working class shoppers and vendors at the Market, please bring them.

With high regards,

Steve Balkin, Professor Emeritus
Board Member of the Maxwell Street Foundation Email: