Poverty and Literature 2017



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’ early years in Chicago: (pp. 61-67)

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

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

c.        What made the South Side the capital of Black America in the 40's and 50's?  How was the neighborhood 'vertically integrated'? (64-66)

d.       What was the great disadvantage, according to Lemann, for black migrants moving to Chicago? (65-66)

e.       How did ‘getting over’ translate to the big city?

f.        Describe Uless' 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: (pp. 67-70)

a.      What are the recurrent themes of Ruby's first six years in Chicago?

b.      Lemann's point?

c.      What was Luther’s story up to 1951, the time he met Ruby in Chicago?

d.     What happened to Ruby’s cousin Ceatrice?


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

a.      How did the pattern of migration to Chicago from the South change from 1940 to 1960?

b.     What impact did the change from ‘pull’ to ‘push’ have on the character of the latest African-American migrants moving to Chicago?

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

d.    Describe the consequences of Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Wood’s efforts to integrate Chicago neighborhoods during the years after the Supreme Court outlawed housing discrimination.

e.    Describe the nature of the race riots in Chicago during this time period.


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

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

b.       Why was it in Dawson's interest to keep the migrants streaming into Chicago within the black belt?

c.      What rules had Robert Taylor broken?

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

e.       How did Dawson run his political machine? Upon whom did he have to depend?

f.        Lemann's point?


5.      Uless’ Ministry (pp. 77-79)

a.       What were the consequences of Uless’ decision to commit himself to his ministry? What happened to his marriage? What happened to his job? How did Urban Renewal play havoc with his congregation?

b.       What is Lemann's point about the role of the church in protecting the interests of African Americans who had moved to Chicago after WWII?


6.      Ruby and Lawndale (pp. 79-84)

a.        When Aid to Dependent Children was initially passed in 1935, 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. How did welfare actually work against Ruby and Lester taking control of their lives? (79-80)

b.       How was Lawndale, the neighborhood to which Ruby and Lester moved on the West Side, different from the South Side?  Why had this neighborhood fallen apart? (81-84)

c.        Consider Lemann's thesis now: how is Ruby's experience prophetic (or self-fulfilling)?


7.      Lillian and Connie Henry (pp. 84-89)

a.        How is the story of Lillian Henry and Ferris Luckert also representative, according to Lemann, of the West Side Story during the 1950's?

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


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

a.      What made Daley the epitome of a machine boss?

b.      How did Daley consolidate his position as Mayor once he had been elected in 1955?

c.      How did Daley believe that blacks would benefit from ;loyalty to the machine?

d.     Why were black children educated in ‘Willis Wagons’ during this period?

e.      Why was Daley so opposed to integration? (91)

f.       How had the machine provide cradle to grave security for those lucky enough to rise in it?

g.      How did Daley justify to blacks the construction of huge segregated housing projects between 1957 and 1963?

h.      How did this vision go terribly wrong?


9.     George Hicks Moves North (pp. 95-97)

a.       What circumstances forced George Hicks to move to Chicago?

b.       What sort of future did he imagine for himself when he brought his family there?


10.      The Woodlawn Organization 1961-62 (pp. 97-103)

a.        Who was Saul Alinsky? What strategy did he believe should be employed to begin the process of integrating Chicago?

b.       Why was Woodlawn chosen instead of Englewood to be the target neighborhood for their integration efforts?

c.       How did Robert Moses, the great organizer for SNCC in the Voting Rights movement in the South, describe the frustration felt by northern black workers? 

d.      How did Mayor Daley believe the problems in Woodlawn could be solved?

e.       How had the political mood shifted among blacks in Chicago by 1961?

f.       How did the activists believe that they could prevent the neighborhood from further deterioration?

g.       What problems could ‘political empowerment’ not overcome?


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

a.        What sequence of events led to Ruby's move into the brand new Robert Taylor Homes in 1962?

b.       How did her placement in the new housing project bode ill for the future of the Robert Taylor Homes?