From Black Ghetto to Bronzeville
Residential and Social in Chicago, Illinois
Origin and Migration
The first large group of blacks to migrate to the city were bondsmen escaping slavery in “Americas cotton kingdom in the south during the nineteenth century.” Hundreds poured into the city and while their presence in the growing city of European immigrants and native born whites did not go without notice very little tension erupted. Compared to the other ethnic groups in the area, the black population was small in comparison and half of the migrants were concentrated in a predominately black area in the southern section of the city. Shortly after the arrival of black migrants, white natives began moving to more desirable areas along the lake-front and to suburbs farther from the growing city allowing blacks to take over their homes, as well as, institutions such as churches and schools. The small black neighborhood began to expand and what became known as the “black belt” emerged.
Blacks gravitated to what was considered the “Midwest metropolis” from the rural plantations of the south for different reasons. Some migrants where adventurous and eager to explore a world which they had a been excluded from for hundreds of years. Others were “ambitious, burning with a desire to get ahead (99),” but most were poor and in search of steady employment that offered substantial earnings as well as “adequate relief” when employment opportunities were scarce. Reasons for migrating may have varied, yet, all black migrants were yearning to escape “a section of the United States where freedom was limited by a rigid color line where equality of opportunity was denied to them. Blacks in southern states were constantly reminded that “they had a place and they were expected to stay in it,” however, in the Midwest Metropolis blacks were granted a wider range of freedom to come and go as they pleased. The state of Illinois was one of the most progressive states in terms of...