Chapter

Clearing Chicago's Slums

in Blueprint for Disaster

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226360850
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226360874 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226360874.003.0004
Clearing Chicago's Slums

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Between 1945 and 1966, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) built 23,400 apartments for low-income families, nearly all in African American neighborhoods. The city's most problematic projects took shape in this period, as the CHA expanded its initial slum clearance sites and created ever-larger conglomerations of public housing. The Chicago City Council's blatant racism and the backlash against racial integration accounts for why no more than a handful of projects in Chicago were built in white areas, but it only partially explains why projects were built in black neighborhoods. A closer analysis shows how the city's long-standing progressive vision for clearing slums played a major role in location decisions. Historian Arnold Hirsch argued in 1983 that the CHA was “captured” by the city council in this period and pressed into serving a “containment” agenda intended to keep African Americans out of white neighborhoods. By blocking vacant land sites and demanding clearance in the black belt, the council thus coerced the CHA into “making the second ghetto” on top of the first one.

Keywords: public housing; slums; Chicago; slum clearance; ghetto; African Americans; Chicago Housing Authority; low-income families; Chicago City Council; racism

Chapter.  11076 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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