Segregation and Housing in Chicago
Length: 2285 words (6.5 double-spaced pages)
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Chicago was the best place to live and visit for anyone. Many people traveled from far places to visit and live in Chicago. Long after the World War II many things started reshaping America. One of the most significant was the racial change all over America but specifically in Chicago. Many southern blacks started to move into Chicago. Chicago started to become mostly dominated by blacks and other minorities while whites started to move into the suburbs of Chicago. "Beginning in the 1930s, with the city's black population increasing and whites fleeing to the suburbs, the black vote became a precious commodity to the white politicians seeking to maintain control" (Green, 117). Many of the mayors such as Edward J. Kelly, Martin H. Kennelly, and Richard J. Daley won over the blacks and got their votes for them to become mayor. The black population grew by 77 percent by the 1940. The white population dropped from 102,048 to 10,792 during the years of 1940 to 1960. With all of these people moving into Chicago there had to be more housing. There were many houses built to accommodate all the people. Martin H. Kennelly at one time wanted to tear down slums and have public housing built in the black ghetto. Many of the blacks wanted to escape these ghettos so some of them; if they could they would try to move to the white communities. When the blacks would try to move into the white communities they were met with mobs. There were many hurdles that blacks had to overcome not only in Chicago but all over America. The blacks of Chicago had to fight for a place to live and to find a mayor that would help them for who they are, not their color.
Throughout Chicago there were many fights that blacks had to fight. It was not easy for blacks to live in the city because everywhere they went they were faced with whites trying to get them to move out. Led by comedian Dick Gregory, 75 people protested in the Bridgeport neighborhood. As these protestors walked many people of the Bridgeport neighborhood threw eggs and tomatoes, showed Ku Klux Klan signs and shouted, "Two-four-six-eight, we don't want to integrate and Oh, I wish I was an Alabama trooper, that is what I'd really like to be-ee-ee. Cuz if I was and Alabama trooper, I could kill the niggers legally" (Biles, 112).
In the 1960s a Chicago Fire Department was sent out rushing to answerer an alarm. While going through the ghetto the rear section of the fire truck fishtailed and hit a light pole. The pole landed and killed a black girl. Rumors started saying that a drunken white fireman killed a black girl; this started the first summertime race riot of 1960. There were many other things and events that blacks faced just because they wanted to live in Chicago.
There were many mayors of Chicago, and many of them had to win over the black community to get a chance to be mayor. During the 1930s "Edward J. Kelly ruled Chicago's city hall and its Democratic party" (Green, 111). In 1933 he took office as Chicago was going through the Depression. Before the Depression most of the blacks voted Republican. Then blacks switched to the Democratic Party because of the New Deal generosity and because of the Chicago local factors. "Kelly set out to capture the black vote and did so by appointing blacks to an increasing number of municipal posts, by selecting them as candidates for elective offices, and by distributing government aid..." (Green, 116). Kelly also honored successful black American for their accomplishments. In 1934 the "Democrats selected a black candidate, Arthur W. Mitchell, to contest Oscar DePriest's congressional seat from Illinois' 1st District" (Green, 116). During Kelly's years as mayor, he helped the growth of three housing projects. With Kelly, the U.S. Housing Authority also helped fund many other housing projects. Kelly was the boss of the Chicago Democratic Party. He not only dominated the local politics and government but also expanded the strength of the organization. When Kelly was being considered for re-election many people went against him because of the open housing controversy. "the mayor's repeated pledge to guarantee the availability of housing citywide to black galvanized the public and helped to explain the findings of Arvey's polls;..." (Biles, 124)
Martin Kennelly was mayor during the late 1940s. Kennelly was also born in Chicago near the Southwest Side. Kennelly turned out to be a mayor who sits around and lets other people come to an agreement and then he would take the credit for it. Kennelly did do some good things for the city like decreasing gambling in Chicago, but he would failed to recognize crime. Kennelly would deny that crime even existed in the city. Once he even said that organized crime and the black community were linked together. "Kennelly was no liberal in race relations and fully approved of residential segregation" (Biles, 87). Kennelly was part of a group of people who wanted to tear down slums and erect public housing in the black neighborhood. The lack of Kennelly's leadership was the greatest significance. When Kennelly took a stand on housing discrimination he opposed the ordinance that would have in fact banned housing discrimination. In 1955 at the Trumbull Park Homes, whites were protesting against black families moving in. The CHA stopped black families from moving in while violence and protesting when on in the neighborhood. Throughout all of this, Kennelly ignored the black protestors and seemed not to care what they had to say. He believed that "mob violence at the project was sanctioned and stimulated by the willful failure of the city administration to end it" (Green, 141). With the things that Kennelly chose to do, he lost the majority of the black votes. In 1955 Richard J. Daley took control of being mayor of Chicago. During Daley being mayor race would be the main topic for him to deal with.
During the years of 1945-1955 Richard J. Daley was mayor of Chicago. It is said that Daley got where he was because everyone pass away and he was just at the right place at the right time. Daley saw that the use of public housing to concentrate the black population was good for many reasons. By segregating it made the liberals happy, maintained segregation and it would control black votes. During the late 1950s the cities elementary schools were predominantly white. Benjamin C. Willis, a superintendent, came to Chicago to restore the school system. To help better the schools Willis thought that it was best to move the black students into empty warehouses instead of having them go into white schools. During all of this Daley did nothing to testify against what Willis was doing. Daley even gave Willis his vote of confidence of what he was doing. Tens of thousands of black students started to boycott classes during the fall of 1963.
Housing for blacks and whites became a major issue during the twentieth-century. Chicago soon became one of the most segregated cities in America. Though as more blacks started to move into Chicago, there were very few integrated neighborhoods. The ghetto that existed expanded and turned into a second ghetto. It was during World War I that almost all of the migration of blacks took place in the city. This huge migration continued until the 1920s when the Depression hit. When the Depression hit people slowly stopped moving into cities, specifically Chicago.
During the beginning of the twentieth-century fifty thousand black migrants came to Chicago to live. In order to keep white neighborhoods, the Chicago Real Estate Board started using deed restrictions and restrictive covenants. This led to African Americans being prohibited to rent or lease homes. Wendy Plotkin soon went to the U.S Supreme Court and told the nation that there should be no restrictions to live in a home. The Supreme Court soon ruled that this was illegal. This did not stop some people from having African Americans move into their neighborhood, people found other means to keep them segregated. "From 1940 to 1960, the area's white population fell from 102,048 to 10,792, whereas the number of black residents soared from 380 to 113,827" (Biles, 33). The landlords of some homes exploited black renters and buyers. The landlords of slum property would divide their apartment buildings into very small and over priced homes. Many of the real estate companies would sell homes 'on contract'; this is where people would pay a very low down payment but then have extremely high monthly payments.
After World War II the government started giving to Chicago. The government was to have a massive public housing construction and start urban development. This program started to replace private dwellings with public housing and start giving the South Side a new look. Though these projects sounded like a good idea, it left many poor blacks without a home, which started creating the West Side ghetto. Most of this building and reconstruction started when Martin Kennelly was mayor. Martin Kennelly completely agreed with segregation. He met with members of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) and found out that they started mainly working on building houses in white neighborhoods. "In 1949, however, the state legislature passed a law requiring city council approval of public housing sites in cities with populations of more that five hundred thousand" (Biles: Race and Housing in Chicago, 31).
Chicagoans soon started to find homes in white communities because they didn't want to live in the ghetto anymore. When blacks tried to move into white communities, they were met with mobs, real estate firms and a hostile city government.
The Chicago Housing Authority was organized to provide temporary housing for those people who couldn't afford a 'decent, safe and sanitary dwellings'. Over time, the notion of 'temporary' housing became lost, and generations of low-income families came to depend upon this government safety net as a permanent way of life. From there, life in public housing degenerated into warehouses for the poor, plagued by crime and welfare dependency. By 1955 when Richard J. Daley was mayor, the CHA had become a "captive authority;' and the commitment of Chicago officialdom to racial segregation was complete" (Blies: Race and Housing in Chicago, 36). Martin Luther King came to Chicago and was shocked by the site of the apartments and homes that the city was providing. King told everyone that he was going to lead a rent strike if the landlords would not improve the conditions of these homes. "Liberals, conservatives, government agencies, and private businesses all played a role in creating and reinforcing the color like separating Chicago neighborhoods" (Blies: Race and Housing in Chicago, 37).
The African American population started to stand up for their rights as people and demand to have equal rights to own a home and to get an equal access to jobs. "As a first step, black Chicagoans and their allies sought to estimate the extent and impact of the discriminatory agreements on African American life in Chicago, a task that generated some controversy" (Plotkin, 44). Over 80 percent of Chicago's land was racial restrictive covenants. Many people that supported and opposed convents started to challenge that 80 percent of homes that were white only neighborhoods. It was soon shown that 50 percent of the residential areas 700 homes where restricted in convents. People went to the Illinois legislature with a bill that would ban convents. By 1934 the Illinois State Conference proposed laws prohibiting race restrictive convents. But it wasn't until 1948 that the U.S Supreme Court said that it was unconstitutional for anyone to enforce restrictive convents.
Chicago was a very highly populated area. It wasn't until the mid 1900s that thousands of people started to move into Chicago. In the beginning of the twentieth-century Chicago went though three influential mayors, Edward Kelly, Martin Kennelly, and Richard J. Daley. Each mayor had an impact on Chicago and more importantly at the time of segregation. At the time it was very hard for many and all African Americans to find decent homes in Chicago. Chicago boomed with people and it was hard for some people to find housing. The result of this was black families moved to the white suburbs. When the black families moved there they were met with angry white families, and eventually made the black families go back to the ghetto in Chicago. Though it didn't just stop there, Real Estate companies and other people even mayors tried to keep areas in Chicago segregated. It was wrong and unconstitutional what people did to African Americans just so they wouldn't move into their subdivision. Today all people are free to move and live wherever they want to be. Unfortunately though this is not true for everyone, there still are people out there in the world today that are still racist and still want to live in an only white community. Through history and though these words people can see how hard African Americans had to fight to find a decent place to live.
Biles, R., (2001). Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society: Race and Housing in Chicago. Springfield, IL: The Illinois State Historical Society. Vol.94, No. 1.
Biles, R., (1995). Richard J. Daley: Politics, Race, and the Governing of Chicago. DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press.
Green, P.M., & Holli, M.G., (1995). The Mayors: The Chicago Political Tradition. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press.
Plotkin, W., (2001). Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society: Race and Housing in Chicago. Springfield, IL: The Illinois State Historical Society. Vol.94, No. 1.