Chicago: The Political Capital
of Black America
ON THE WEEKEND of September 24, 1971, a group of black politicians and civil rights activists gathered at what was supposed to be an undisclosed location in Northlake, Illinois, a town a few miles north of Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. The meeting’s out-of-theway location was chosen to keep who was attending a secret. Luminaries in the world of black politics were there in full force— Mayor Richard Hatcher of Gary, Indiana; Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton; Georgia State Representative Julian Bond; Texas State Senator Barbara Jordan; Black Power activist Imamu Amiri Baraka; and civil rights activists Jesse Jackson, Vernon Jordan, and Coretta Scott King among many others. Though the attendees traveled near and far, they converged near Chicago—the place that had long been the center of black electoral politics.
Dodging reporters, who had caught wind of the meeting, attendees refused to give statements to the press on their arrival at the hotel. Roy Innis, head of the Congress of Racial Equality, offered the only public statement to reporters prior to the proceedings, before ducking into an elevator: “This must be the biggest secret since the atomic bomb.” To ensure that intruders would not disrupt