- David Schalliol
- The Frances Cabrini row houses on the Near North Side.
I grew up in Chicago, and I love this city and hate its legacy of black and white separation. In my writing, I’ve regularly denounced the segregation that persists here and throughout our country. But on this Thanksgiving, I’ll happily acknowledge some reasons for optimism, and some attainments to be grateful for.
In the 1950s, the community activist Saul Alinsky described racial integration in Chicago as the brief period starting with the arrival of the first black family in a neighborhood and ending with the departure of the last white family. That was an accurate picture here into the 1970s. Then blacks stopped streaming into Chicago from Mississippi, and neighborhoods stopped changing overnight from white to black. The end of the black migration left the city not with integrated neighborhoods, but stably segregated ones—including a sprawling megaghetto on the south side and a smaller one on the west side. Four decades later, these areas are still almost completely African-American, with high concentrations of poverty—and they’re home to more than half of Chicago’s black population.