Chicago Freedom Movement march, South Kedzie Avenue, August 5, 1966
“History teaches us about important lessons, people, and events. It shapes a nation. It tells us who we are and where we came from. It tells us about our past evils and also about our good deeds. As we conclude Black History Month, I want to tell you an important part of history, a movement that took place in Chicago, in our own backyard, but that gets neglected and lost in history. I want to tell you about a movement that inspired many people and changed a city forever: the Chicago Freedom Movement. The Chicago Freedom Movement was a coalition led by radical Black organizers in the 1960s who raised awareness and pressured city officials to address racist housing discrimination. The seeds of why and how the movement came about can be traced back to the Great Migration, in which some seven million African-American people left the racist repression of the Jim Crow South to look for work and safety in northern cities, and its legacy is the creation of the Fair Housing Act. More than half a million came to Chicago between 1916 and 1970. ‘Before this migration, African Americans constituted two percent of Chicago’s population; by 1970, they were thirty-three percent,’ according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago. Yet Black people continued to face discrimination in the north, as Chicago was segregated along ethnic and racial lines. Irish, Polish, German, Italian, and Black people lived in their own segregated communities. At first there was discrimination against Irish, Polish, and Italian immigrants, but eventually, they were integrated into American society, accepted, and treated as equals. Through policy and force, Black Americans were kept isolated and not allowed to live in large swaths of Chicago. The Chicago Freedom Movement Program would later state, ‘Racism, slums, and ghettos have been the essentials of [Black] existence in Chicago. While the city permitted its earlier ethnic groups to enter the mainstream of American life, it has locked [Black people] into the lower rungs of the social and economic ladder.’ …”
South Side Weekly
W – Chicago Freedom Movement
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