Communities in Chicago
By: Mike Miller
Chicago has a history steeped in growth of infrastructure, devastating natural disasters, and everything in between. It first was settled in the late 1700’s and has been growing exponentially ever since. It’s a city of commerce and opportunity for many incoming immigrants and settlers to start a fresh life. This place became one of the most desirable cities in America to live and became the new home for many people from the south, including African Americans. Many European immigrants also tagged along with these black people coming from the southern states and made Chicago very culturally diverse over time. During the Second Great Migration between 1940 and 1970, roughly five million African Americans left the rural south for the north in the biggest and greatest mass migration in American history. Many southerners were already urbanized after World War II, as many southern states had developed their own cities. These black migrants were known to be more motivated and had better skills to apply into their lives at work and at home. The reason for this massive movement of African Americans laborers and sharecroppers to Chicago was to escape violence and segregation. They also desired the relief of economic burdens that have haunted them throughout their lives. However, these conditions did not really alter over time as some southerners found it even more difficult to find a steady job and decent living conditions while competing with European immigrants. In an interview with Leroy Martin, who was a former black superintendent of police in Chicago with author Mr. Tim Black, the socioeconomic status was bad. Mr. Martin says black people worked, but the good jobs for black people were as waiters on the railroad. There were no black bus drivers, very few black police officers, and no black firefighters at that time. Those jobs were held primarily by white men. The blacks in the south were known to be at the bottom of the totem pole of the social class system. Therefore, many blacks were often discriminated and categorized as people with little or no say in society and were not given many rights. Before the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, blacks had very few rights such as the right to own property and land. However, they were segregated from the white folks in the community wherever they lived in America. All in all, the multitudes of new migrants created public attention as the Great Migration from 1910-1979 drastically converted Chicago, both politically and culturally. As stated in The Promised Land the South Side of Chicago is an area south of the city where many blacks and other immigrants migrated to. This side of town eventually led to becoming one of the most influential, diverse, and challenging communities in modern time. The northern side of the South Side became known as Chicago’s Black Belt. During the 1940’s, the black population increased by 77% from 278,000 to 492,000. As stated in The Promise Land, as migrants from the South packed into the Black Belt each month, landlords transformed more and more apartments into kitchenettes which were essentially very small apartments. This type of living style became extremely prevalent in African American society especially after World War II as many of these neighborhoods became denser and inferior to the white population. According to author Cheryl Hudson, the West Side occupied cheaper housing than the South Side and many Negroes over the years had abandoned their residences in the South Side for the West Side. Hudson also states that West Side Negroes were generally home-loving, hard-working people, and desirous of improving conditions for their children. Quickly with each side of town, Negroes began to build reputations and some whites could cope with the blacks. However in most neighborhoods, that wasn’t the...
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