The wartime and post-World War One migration of Southern black’s northward in search of work revealed that the racial diversity common to the South was unwelcome in Chicago, and black people in that city endured untold violence to keep them out.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Unwelcome in Chicago
“The Negro has ceased to invade Chicago from the South in the overwhelming numbers of the war and post-war years. A measure of stability is being achieved by the Negro population of Chicago which ranges somewhere between 150,000 to 200,000. Decline of the southern migration has tempered the anxiety of the white neighbors of the Negro. The colored man has shown a greater capacity for amicable citizenship than his more apprehensive white neighbors believed him capable of.
The colored man refused to be confined within a ghetto defined by his white neighbors and he defied all the economic and social pressure applied to keep him there. He demonstrated that he had the money to invade territory once monopolized by whites and the courage to stay there in the face of bombs which wrecked his homes, churches and business places. He persisted in the face of cold-shouldering from his neighbors.
Negroes are therefore to be found in all parts of the city. Hundreds of Negro families live in health-destroying abodes but that is due to lack of income which to avail themselves of the numerous dwelling places open to them – not to excess of home-seekers over homes.
There are still neighborhood efforts to keep the Negroes out of certain sections of the south side – out of the region south of 60th Street and east of South Parkway, for example . . . Such exclusion efforts as are made seem to be along economic lines – that is, by preserving property values. Bombings are almost unheard of and the check upon Negro invasion of white territory is in part imposed by Negro leaders, who feel that the race has “taken over” as much territory as it can wholesomely assimilate for some years to come.
Dr. George Cleveland Hall and Alexander L. Jackson, Negro property holders with extensive knowledge of south side business and social conditions, take issue with the widely-held view that Negro penetration of a district means depreciation of property values. “Panic stricken white property holders in a changing district often let alarmist realtors talk them into selling their property at a loss “because the Negroes are coming in,” Dr. Hall conceded. “Dealers have made fortunes by fanning these fears and then reselling the property at enormous profit . . . ”
In the slum districts one will see many tenements which the Negro residents do not keep up as neat as the even those uninspiring abodes might be made. These are better homes which indicate deterioration under Negro occupancy. Negroes deplore this, but observe that these shiftless tenants have their white prototypes.
All along Calumet, Prairie, Indiana and Michigan Avenues, sand blasters are at work cleaning up the houses which once were reckoned the city’s finest, but have not enjoyed a face-washing for twenty years.”
(Notes by Carroll Binder on Chicago and the New Negro, Journal of Negro History, Vol. XIII, No. 2, April, 1928, Carter G. Woodson, editor, excerpts, pp. 214-215; 220-221)