Segregation in Chicago a Bigger Problem for People outside City

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 5, 1997 | Go to article overview

Segregation in Chicago a Bigger Problem for People outside City


Byline: Bill Granger

Chicago was the promised land for Southern blacks after World Wars I and II.

They came up north on the "Fried Chicken Special," as they called the Illinois Central's "City of New Orleans" train. It wended its way up from Louisiana through Mississippi, touching Arkansas and Memphis along the way.

Mahalia Jackson, the great gospel singer, remembered the train that way and the route. She gave it that name.

Other blacks like Louis Armstrong also remembered Chicago as the gateway to a better life, coming up on the double-trackage of the IC lines. It was the town where the worth of a man had nothing to do with his color. That was the exaggeration current down South in black culture, but it served.

After the Second World War, the influx of blacks into Chicago created a national awareness of the town. Not the city of easy corruption celebrated by Al Capone and Mayor Big Bill Thompson and the birthplace of the crime syndicate in a town that "Billy Sunday could not shut down." But the city of easy segregation.

Residential segregation.

Not the segregation of the Southland where blacks and whites could live side by side - but couldn't drink at the same water fountain. Hell, if you could find a water fountain in Chicago, you were welcome to it. Everything in Chicago was about where you lived. That is changing - but it is hard to explain that change.

Chicago was about real estate. About where blacks lived and where whites would live without blacks around them.

So what's changed in all these years in Chicago?

Still segregated.

Still a place where blacks and whites live apart.

Still a place where segregation is the rule.

Is that true?

Last week, a University of Michigan sociological study - derived from census tracts - said Chicago was the third most segregated city in the country. Right behind Gary and Detroit, which were segregated black cities. Not nearly as advanced in civilization among the races as places in the South where whites and blacks lived together in the same census tracts.

Is it true?

Has to be. It's down there in black and white in those census tracts. Has to be. The New York Times has said we are the most segregated city in the country more often than it's been wrong about Clinton, so it has to be.

Nothing has changed in Chicago, right?

Tell that to the black yuppies living in their half-million-dollar town houses in Lincoln Park.

Tell that to my upstairs neighbor, the renowned opera singer William Warfield. …

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