You can think you know a place, and then you fall down a rabbit hole and realize you don't know so much. I read a few books recently that made me feel a whole new excitement and disdain for Chicago history. Someone asked me what books I was reading, probably because I was spouting pointed opinions, but I read these books in a short time, and it transformed me. These are the books about Chicago you should read if you want to know how things got to be unfair, difficult, and dangerous, particularly for Black and brown communities. I'm interested in schools, the south and west sides, and young people, in-particular, and they are the lens I look through when I think about the power dynamics and history of Chicago. There are a few that just came out that I'm excited about. Dr Elizabeth Todd Breland's upcoming book is high my to-read list.
Danns, Dionne. Desegregating Chicago's Public Schools: Policy Implementation, Politics, and Protest, 1965-1985 (2014) With the dual impetus of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chicago, like so many other cities, began the process of desegregating its public school system. What resulted was a unique study in the implementation and transformation of public policy, as the city dealt with and pushed back against directives and lawsuits from both the state and federal governments. In this book, Dionne Danns provides the story of how public policy on this historic topic was formed by stakeholders at all levels, from superintendents to parents to state and federal officials, and how politics and stakeholder perceptions and protests determined outcomes for the school system.
Diamond, Andrew J Mean Streets: Chicago Youths and the Everyday Struggle for Empowerment in the Multiracial City, 1908-1969 (2009) Mean Streets focuses on the streets, parks, schools, and commercial venues of Chicago from the era of the 1919 race riot to the civil rights battles of the 1960s to cast a new light on street gangs and to place youths at the center of the twentieth-century American experience. Andrew J. Diamond breaks new ground by showing that teens and young adults stood at the vanguard of grassroots mobilizations in working-class Chicago, playing key roles in the formation of racial identities as they defended neighborhood boundaries. Drawing from a wide range of sources to capture the experiences of young Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Italians, Poles, and others in the multiracial city, Diamond argues that Chicago youths gained a sense of themselves in opposition to others.
Satter, Beryl, Family Properties: How the Struggle Over Race and Real Estate Transformed Chicago and Urban America (2010) In this powerful book, Beryl Satter identifies the true causes of the city's black slums and the ruin of urban neighborhoods throughout the country: not, as some have argued, black pathology, the culture of poverty, or white flight, but a widespread and institutionalized system of legal and financial exploitation. In Satter's riveting account of a city in crisis, unscrupulous lawyers, slumlords, and speculators are pitched against religious reformers, community organizers, and an impassioned attorney who launched a crusade against the profiteers—the author's father, Mark J. Satter. At the heart of the struggle stand the black migrants who, having left the South with its legacy of sharecropping, suddenly find themselves caught in a new kind of debt peonage. Satter shows the interlocking forces at work in their oppression: the discriminatory practices of the banking industry; the federal policies that created the country's shameful "dual housing market"; the economic anxieties that fueled white violence; and the tempting profits to be made by preying on the city's most vulnerable population.
Fernandez, Lilia. Brown in the Windy City: Mexicans and Puerto Ricans in Postwar Chicago (2014) JUST READ IT. None of the blurbs I found did it justice.
*Hirsch, Arnold R. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940-1960 1998 In Making the Second Ghetto, Arnold Hirsch argues that in the post-depression years Chicago was a "pioneer in developing concepts and devices" for housing segregation. Hirsch shows that the legal framework for the national urban renewal effort was forged in the heat generated by the racial struggles waged on Chicago's South Side. His chronicle of the strategies used by ethnic, political, and business interests in reaction to the great migration of southern blacks in the 1940s describes how the violent reaction of an emergent "white" population combined with public policy to segregate the city. *about to read this....
Innis-Jimenez, Michael. Steel Barrio: The Great Mexican Migration to South Chicago, 1915-1940 (2013) Examining how the fortunes of Mexicans in South Chicago were linked to the environment they helped to build, Steel Barrio offers new insights into how and why Mexican Americans created community. This book investigates the years between the World Wars, the period that witnessed the first, massive influx of Mexicans into Chicago. South Chicago Mexicans lived in a neighborhood whose literal and figurative boundaries were defined by steel mills, which dominated economic life for Mexican immigrants. Yet while the mills provided jobs for Mexican men, they were neither the center of community life nor the source of collective identity. Steel Barrio argues that the Mexican immigrant and Mexican American men and women who came to South Chicago created physical and imagined community not only to defend against the ever-present social, political, and economic harassment and discrimination, but to grow in a foreign, polluted environment.
Petty, Audry. High-Rise Stories: Voices from Chicago Public Housing (2013) In 1999, the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation instigated the relocation of thousands of families and the destruction of buildings that had once held such promise, especially for families who came to the city as part of the Great Migration. In the latest book from the admirable and acclaimed Voices of Witness oral-history series, we hear from public-housing residents. (from Booklist)
Chicanas of 18th Street: Narratives of a Movement from Latino Chicago (Latinos in Chicago and Midwest) edited by Leonard Ramirez (2011) Overflowing with powerful testimonies of six female community activists who have lived and worked in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Chicanas of 18th Street reveals the convictions and approaches of those organizing for social reform. In chronicling a pivotal moment in the history of community activism in Chicago, the women discuss how education, immigration, religion, identity, and acculturation affected the Chicano movement. Chicanas of 18th Street underscores the hierarchies of race, gender, and class while stressing the interplay of individual and collective values in the development of community reform.
Wilkerson, Isabel. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration, 2011. In this epic, beautifully written masterwork, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Isabel Wilkerson chronicles one of the great untold stories of American history: the decades-long migration of black citizens who fled the South for northern and western cities, in search of a better life.