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Du Sable is the city's founder. By the late 19th century, the first black person had been elected to office. The Great Migrations from to brought hundreds of thousands of blacks from the South to Chicago , where they became an urban population.
They created churches, community organizations, important businesses, music, and literature. Residing in segregated communities, almost regardless of income, the Black residents of Chicago aimed to create communities where they could survive, sustain themselves, and have the ability to determine for themselves their own course in Chicago history.
Although du Sable's settlement was established in the s, African Americans would only become established as a community in the s, with the population reaching 1, by Much of this population consisted of escaped slaves from the Upper South. Following the end of Reconstruction in , African Americans flowed from the Deep South into Chicago, raising the population from approximately 4, in to 15, in In , John A.
Logan helped pass a law to prohibit all African Americans, including freedmen, from settling in the state. However, in , the state repealed its " Black Laws " and became the first to ratify the 13th Amendment. Especially after the Civil War , Illinois had some of the most progressive anti-discrimination legislation in the nation.
By , John W. Thomas of Chicago became the first African American elected to the Illinois General Assembly , beginning the longest uninterrupted run of African-American representation in any state legislature in U. After the Great Chicago Fire , Chicago mayor Joseph Medill appointed the city's first black fire company of nine men and the first black police officer.
At the turn of the century, southern states succeeded in passing new constitutions and laws that disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites. Deprived of the right to vote, they could not sit on juries or run for office. They were subject to discriminatory laws passed by white legislators, including racial segregation of public facilities. Segregated education for black children and other services were consistently underfunded in a poor, agricultural economy.
As white-dominated legislatures passed Jim Crow laws to re-establish white supremacy and create more restrictions in public life, violence against blacks increased, with lynchings used as extrajudicial enforcement. In addition, the boll weevil infestation ruined much of the cotton industry in the early 20th century.
Voting with their feet, blacks started migrating out of the South to the North, where they could live more freely, get their children educated, and get new jobs. Industry buildup for World War I pulled thousands of workers to the North, as did the rapid expansion of railroads , and the meatpacking and steel industries. Between and , hundreds of thousands of black southerners migrated to Chicago to escape violence and segregation, and to seek economic freedom. They went from being a mostly rural population to one that was mostly urban.
From to , most African Americans who migrated north were from rural areas. They had been chiefly sharecroppers and laborers, although some were landowners pushed out by the boll weevil disaster. After years of underfunding of public education for blacks in the South, they tended to be poorly educated, with relatively low skills to apply to urban jobs. Like the European rural immigrants, they had to rapidly adapt to a different urban culture. Many took advantage of better schooling in Chicago and their children learned quickly.
After , when the second larger wave of migration started, black migrants tended to be already urbanized, from southern cities and towns. They were the most ambitious, better educated with more urban skills to apply in their new homes.
The masses of new migrants arriving in the cities captured public attention. At one point in the s, 3, African Americans were arriving every week in Chicago—stepping off the trains from the South and making their ways to neighborhoods they had learned about from friends and the Chicago Defender.
Urban white northerners started to get worried, as their neighborhoods rapidly changed. At the same time, recent and older ethnic immigrants competed for jobs and housing with the new arrivals, especially on the South Side, where the steel and meatpacking industries had the most numerous working-class jobs.
Ethnic Irish were heavily implicated in the gang violence and the rioting that erupted in They had been the most established ethnic group and defended their power and territory in the South Side against newcomers: both other ethnic whites and southern blacks. The railroad and meatpacking industries recruited black workers.
Chicago's African-American newspaper, the Chicago Defender , made the city well known to southerners. It sent bundles of papers south on the Illinois Central trains, and African-American Pullman Porters would drop them off in Black towns. In the s, homeowner's discriminatory covenant practices were killed in state courts.
It was hard for many blacks to find jobs and find decent places to live because of the competition for housing among different groups of people at a time when the city was expanding in population so dramatically.
At the same time that blacks moved from the South in the Great Migration, Chicago was still receiving thousands of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. The groups competed with each other for working-class wages. Though other techniques to maintain housing segregation had been used, such as redlining and exclusive zoning to single-family housing, by the political leaders of Chicago began to adopt racially restrictive covenants.
Kraemer ruled in that racially restrictive covenants were unconstitutional, but this did not quickly solve blacks' problems with finding adequate housing. In a succession common to most cities, many middle and upper-class whites were the first to move out of the city to new housing, aided by new commuter rail lines and the construction of new highway systems. Later arrivals, ethnic whites and African-American families occupied the older housing behind them.
The white residents who had been in the city longest were the ones most likely to move to the newer, most expensive housing, as they could afford it. After WWII, the early white residents many Irish immigrants and their descendants on the South Side began to move away under pressure of new migrants and with newly expanding housing opportunities.
African Americans continued to move into the area, which had become the black capital of the country. The South Side became predominantly black, and the Black Belt was formed. Between and , the African-American population rose rapidly in Chicago. White hostility and population growth combined to create the ghetto on the South Side.
Nearby were areas dominated by ethnic Irish, who were especially territorial in defending against incursions into their areas by any other groups. The Black Belt slowly expanded as African Americans, despite facing violence and restrictive covenants, pushed forward into new neighborhoods. When blacks moved into mixed neighborhoods, ethnic white hostility grew.
After fighting over the area, often whites left the area to be dominated by blacks. This is one of the reasons the black belt region started. The Black Belt of Chicago was the chain of neighborhoods on the South Side of Chicago where three-quarters of the city's African-American population lived by the midth century.
The contracts limited the housing available to black tenants, leading to the accumulation of black residents within The Black Belt, one of the few neighborhoods open to black tenants. The South Side's "black belt" also contained zones related to economic status.
The poorest residents lived in the northernmost, oldest section of the black belt, while the elite resided in the southernmost section. Immigration to Chicago was another pressure of overcrowding, as primarily lower-class newcomers from rural Europe also sought cheap housing and working class jobs. More and more people tried to fit into converted " kitchenette " and basement apartments.
Living conditions in the Black Belt resembled conditions in the West Side ghetto or in the stockyards district. A census estimated that black households contained 6. This unhealthiness increased the threat of disease. Crime in African-American neighborhoods was a low priority to the police. Associated with problems of poverty and southern culture, rates of violence and homicide were high.
Some women resorted to prostitution to survive. Both low life and middle-class strivers were concentrated in a small area.
In , the Chicago Housing Authority CHA tried to ease the pressure in the overcrowded ghettos and proposed to put public housing sites in less congested areas in the city. The white residents did not take to this very well, so city politicians forced the CHA to keep the status quo and develop high rise projects in the Black Belt and on the West Side.
Some of these became notorious failures. As industrial restructuring in the s and later led to massive job losses, residents changed from working-class families to poor families on welfare. As of May violence within some Chicago neighborhoods prompted black middle-class people to move to suburbs. Between and , almost 50, Black Southerners moved to Chicago,  which profoundly shaped the city's development.
Growth increased even more rapidly after In particular, the new citizens caused the growth of local churches, businesses and community organizations. A new musical culture arose, fed by all the traditions along the Mississippi River. The population continued to increase with new migrants, with the most arriving after The black arts community in Chicago was especially vibrant. The s were the height of the Jazz Age , but music continued as the heart of the community for decades.
Nationally renowned musicians rose within the Chicago world. Along the Stroll, a bright-light district on State Street , jazz greats like Louis Armstrong headlined at nightspots including the Deluxe Cafe. Black Chicago-people literary creation from to was also prolific, and the city's Black Renaissance rivaled that of the Harlem Renaissance. Clair Drake , Horace R. Cayton, Jr. Chicago was home to writer and poet Gwendolyn Brooks , known for her portrayals of Black working-class life in crowded tenements of Bronzeville.
These writers expressed the changes and conflicts blacks found in urban life and the struggles of creating new worlds. In Chicago, black writers turned away from the folk traditions embraced by Harlem Renaissance writers, instead adopting a grittier style of "literary naturalism" to depict life in the urban ghetto.
The classic Black Metropolis , written by St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Today it remains the most detailed portrayal of Black Chicago in the s and s.
Brown Sr. Their research provided proof of the Austin community having the largest population of Blacks in the city of Chicago. Their efforts to build a museum on the west side and continuing to bring awareness to Juneteenth as a national holiday was rewarded with a proclamation in by Governor Pat Quinn.
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‘In Italy I kept meeting guys’: The black women who travel for love
Along with key review factors, this compensation may impact how and where products appear across the site including, for example, the order in which they appear. Editorial opinions expressed on the site are strictly our own and are not provided, endorsed, or approved by advertisers. Our site is committed to publishing independent, accurate content guided by strict editorial guidelines. Several family members and close friends of mine have been to Chicago, and I was always super jealous of their trips. As a single myself, I can also tell by their stories that Chicago can be an amazing place to find a date or find love.
Latrese Williams is one such black traveler. When Williams goes out in Chicago or pretty much anywhere else in the United States, she said, she often feels ignored by men who seem to barely register her existence. These polar reactions occur, she said, because she is black.
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