Poverty and Literature 2019



The Promised Land: "Chicago" (59-107)


Come back and write these sentences after completing the reading and the study guide:

     Lemann’s Thesis: (Look at your sentence from chapter one. Should it be revised?)


     Lemann’s Overall Point in this Chapter:


Key Questions:

     What is Lemann’s purpose/point in each of the following parts of this chapter?

     How does his selection of anecdotes about the folk from Clarksdale who moved to Chicago support his thesis?

     According to Lemann, how did the public housing debacle in Chicago develop?

     What would Hilfiker think? How about Crane?


1. Uless Carter’s early years in Chicago: (61-67)

       Where does Uless find work and where does he wind up living when he comes to Chicago in 1942?

       Describe the kitchenette apartment in which Uless (and hundreds of thousands of other migrants) lived on Chicago's South Side. (63)

       What made the South Side the capital of Black America in the '40s and '50s?  How was the neighborhood 'vertically integrated'? (64-65)

       What great danger did black migrants face, according to Lemann, living in the big city of Chicago? (65-66)

       Describe Uless's call to the ministry. [Why has Lemann chosen Uless to help tell the story of the Great Migration?] (66-67)


2. Ruby’s pre-Luther story: (67-70)


       What kind of parties did Ruby and Ceatrice begin to throw on Saturday nights?

       How was Ruby treated by the social worker at the welfare office when she applied for public aid after becoming pregnant with her third child?

       What was she told when she applied for public housing after giving birth to her fourth son, Terrell?

       How did she meet Luther Haynes?

       What are the recurrent themes of Ruby's first six years in Chicago? [three sons by three different men... despite job opportunities, she winds up on public aid... family tragedy continues to haunt her: Aunt Ceatrice dies of a stroke....]

       Lemann's point?


3. Chicago black demographics and public housing: (70-74)


       How did the pattern of migration to Chicago from the South change from pull to push during the 1960s? What is the significance of that change?

       Lemann asserts that the impact of the migration in Chicago during the 1940s would set the pattern for race relations throughout the North in the second half of the 20th century. Describe that pattern.

       As the black population increased, so did violent confrontations between whites and blacks, particularly in places where public housing was planned to be built in previously all-white neighborhoods:

       1945: Mayor Kelley appoints Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Wood to lead the Chicago Housing Authority. They vow to integrate public housing in white neighborhoods on Chicago’s South Side. (72)

       1946 Airport Homes riots (Mayor Kelly dumped by Chicago machine for violating the Ickes Rule (72))

       1947 Fernwood Homes riots

       1948 Shelley v Kramer Supreme Court decision renders racially restrictive covenants unenforceable. (72)

       1949 Park Manor and Englewood riots (73)

       1950 Federal Housing Act directs funding to urban renewal projects within the black belt thus preventing integration. Robert Taylor resigns.

       1951-53 "Neighborhood Improvement Associations" harass any black family attempting to move into all-white neighborhoods like Cicero or Trumbull Park Homes (73-74) Elizabeth Wood resigns.

4. Congressman William Dawson’s Politics (74-77)

       What made Dawson one of the most powerful black politicians in America? (74-75)

       What was Dawson's position on the housing issue? (74-75)

       Why was it in Dawson's interest to keep the migrants streaming into Chicago within the black belt? (75)

       How did Dawson rationalize his position? [How would the machine enable blacks to move into the middle class? (comp. to Booker Washington's strategy)] (75)

       Jobs: city, state, and Post Office; city contracts for private companies; policy wheels (numbers rackets); all this patronage was delivered by Dawson though his financing of the ward committeemen who helped him deliver the black vote en masse and much of this money was delivered from the policy wheels (numbers runners).(76)

       How powerful was Dawson? (Mayor Kennelly was dumped by the machine over his objection in 1955, and Richard Daly became mayor.) (77)

       Lemann's point?

5. Uless’ Ministry (77-79)

       Uless puts his ministry first rather than his career, and he can no longer afford to live in the better sections of the South Side. He is pushed out of the middle-class mainstream and allotted to the fringes of the South Side. Lemann's point?

6. Ruby’s Move from the South Side to Lawndale on the West Side (79-84)

       When the Aid to Dependent Children Act was initially passed in 1935 during the New Deal, its planners had intended to support people who could not get out and make a living: widows, the aged, the disabled, and the temporarily unemployed. The legislators could not have predicted the effect the law had on people in Ruby's situation: a unmarried mother with five children. How did welfare actually work against Ruby and new boyfriend Lester taking control of their lives? (79-80)

       How was Lawndale, the neighborhood to which Ruby and Lester moved on the West Side, different from their previous home on the South Side?  What different forces caused this neighborhood to fall apart from 1950 to 1960? (81-84)

       1958: Where was Luther when Ruby delivered her sixth child (a daughter named Juanita?)

       Consider Lemann's thesis now: how is Ruby's experience prophetic?


7. Lillian and Connie Henry (84-89)

       How is the story of Lillian Henry and Ferris Luckert also representative, according to Lemann, of the West Side’s story during the 1950's? (movement from middle class to poor, from diverse neighborhood to all black, from stable to chaotic and, finally, violent family life)

       Why does Lemann choose to include this story at this point in his narrative?


8. Richard Daley’s Machine 1955-63 (89-95)

       How did Daley consolidate his position as Mayor once he had been elected in 1955? (Daley allocates power to appoint committeemen in wards to the Central Democratic Committee (ie himself) which meant that he controlled the distribution of patronage.) (90)

       What sort of deal about their future did Daley offer blacks in the city of Chicago? (91)

       Why was Daley so opposed to integration? (maintaining the stability of ward bosses was key to his power, and changing demographics played havoc with ward constituencies) (91) Daley's philosophy? (consensus, order, containment)

       How did Daley’s School Superintendent Ben Willis respond to the problem of overcrowding in black public schools? (91)

       How did Daley justify to blacks the construction of huge segregated housing projects in the black belt between 1957 and 1963? (the machine provides low cost, modern housing, jobs and lucrative contracts to blacks as long as they accept segregation and continue to vote as the machine directs) (92-93)

       Why did everyone in the 1950s believe that the high rise projects would provide a better life for poor blacks? (92)

       Machine politicians held out to loyal voters the prospect of ‘cradle to grave’ job security if they remained loyal to the system. How did this vision go wrong when blacks became the latest immigrant group to come to Chicago? (Daley misjudged the magnitude of the migration and how it would lead to blockbusting, white flight, a decline in schools and law enforcement, and the alienation of the black middle class) (93-94)


9. The Woodlawn Organization 1961-62 (97-103)

       Who was Saul Alinsky? (A labor organizer turned neighborhood activist who ran the Industrial Areas Foundation and had close ties to the Catholic Archdiocese in Chicago.)

       What strategy did Alinsky believe could be employed to begin the process of integrating Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods? (97) (The ideal conditions for integrating a neighborhood would occur when whites did not feel like they were being surrounded and the blacks chosen to move in were from stable, middle-class families.)

       Why was Woodlawn chosen instead of Englewood to be the target neighborhood for their integration efforts? (98) (The Catholic Church would only support an effort in this struggling neighborhood: “The diocese had several substantial parishes in Woodlawn whose priests were struggling desperately to stay afloat as their white parishioners left and kitchenette apartments proliferated.”Why was Woodlawn a bad choice for an integration effort? (98))

       How did the activists believe that they could turn the neighborhood around? [political power would galvanize the neighborhood's spirit and thus help black businesses grow.] (98-99)

       When the great SNCC organizer Robert Moses traveled the country in the late ’50s observing the emergence of a new black urban identity, he noted profound frustration being expressed over the lack of jobs with career potential coming available for blacks. (99)

       Was the Woodlawn Organization successful in galvanizing the political consciousness of the blacks in Woodlawn? (What happened when some of the Freedom Riders came to speak in Woodlawn? [Yes, they succeeded in organizing people to protest segregation and high rents, but unfortunately, they could not halt the flight of middle-class families from the neighborhood.]

       When did Nicholas von Hoffman realize that his activist movement would never succeed in Woodlawn? (At a rent strike the landlord offered to sell him te building for one dollar.) (102)

       How is a slum created? [messy racial transition, overcrowding, deterioration of schools and police law enforcement, middle-class flight] (103)

10. Ruby and the Robert Taylor Homes (103-107)

       What sequence of events led to Ruby's move into the brand new Robert Taylor Homes in 1962? (Welfare officials cut off aid when they found out that Luther was living with Ruby; even so, she was able to find a nice place in Englewood, but Luther bought a brand new Pontiac instead of helping with the house payment, and they wound up in a kitchenette in Woodlawn. The fact that her family was accepted into the new Robert Taylor Homes indicates that the tenant screening which was supposed to ensure that only solidly middle-class families would be included had already begun to slip.)

       What was Ruby’s response when she found out that her application had been accepted for an apartment in the brand new Robert Taylor Homes? (107)