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From the race riots of 1919, GLR in Gage Park to achieving the dream of Nation of Islam and race issues with the ‘Blue eyed devil’.



1919 Race Riot

The violence was triggered on July 27, 1919 by an incident on a South Side Chicago beach. On that sweltering Sunday afternoon, a small group of blacks entered the white section of the segregated 29th Street Beach. At the same time, Eugene Williams, a 17-year-old African American playing in Lake Michigan, floated across a non-existent, but acknowledged, color line separating whites from blacks in the swimming area. Whites hurled stones at both the group on the beach and Williams in the water. Williams slipped under the water and drowned.
Rumors quickly spread through the growing black crowd that whites had killed the boy. Black witnesses demanded the arrest of a man they accused of causing Williams’ death, but police refused. When a black man was arrested on a white man’s complaint, the volatile situation exploded.  The riot raged against a backdrop of post-WWI tension. African-American soldiers had returned home from Europe expecting to enjoy the fundamental freedoms they had fought to defend. Instead, they faced blatant discrimination and growing racial prejudice.
Massive Resistance” in Chicago’s Marquette Park (1966)
One of the dark, ugly sides of the civil rights era – and largely ignored or forgotten in the popular history of that time – was the “massive resistance” of many whites throughout the North to even modest attempts to address pervasive racial inequality, particularly when it came to housing. This massive resistance often equaled or exceded the more well-known episodes of white racist violence in the South during this period. A stunning example of this came in 1966 when Dr. King led a group of non-violent open housing advocates through a nasty gauntlet of thousands of screaming white residents in the Marquette Park neighborhood of Chicago. Throughout that summer, civil rights activists had marched through predominately white communities like Gage Park on the Southwest Side and Belmont Cragin on the Northwest Side to press local officials to enact an ordinance barring discrimination in the sale or rental of property. At each site the peaceful demonstrators were reminded of the bitter opposition to racial integration that thrived across the city and the nation. The level of hate in Marquette Park was particularly dazzling. White on-lookers hurled obscenities, firecrackers, sticks, rocks and debris. To the tune of the Oscar Meyer hot-dog song, choruses of, “I wish I were an Alabama trooper/This is what I would truly love to be/Because if I were an Alabama trooper/Then I could kill the niggers legally,” filled the air.

Clyde called me one day during that beautiful summer of 1966 and mentioned that George Lincoln Rockwell was organizing a White people’s march through a Black neighborhood. For those who weren’t fortunate enough to have lived during those times, I will mention that our sweet Afro-equals where really doing their thing during that decade. Cities were torched and mass public urination were all in vogue. It was protest time. Blacks, demanding — they usually are — their unearned place in the sun, were organizing mass marches through White neighborhoods and G.L.R. — always the showman — decided to put the watermelon under the other arm. It was in this atmosphere that Clyde and I embarked upon our trip to Chicago.

My 1958 Chevy ran dependably well and we arrived at Marquette Park where the march was to begin. Some people came over and invited us to join Rockwell in a small store front he had rented. We agreed, since it was by his invitaion. I had briefly stayed at Rockwell’s home earlier in the year, but that’s another story.
The room contained about 20 people all busily engaged in screen printing “White Power” T-shirts and posters. We helped for a while and were paid off in merchandise. At this time, Rockwell announced that he was off to the park and that we should join him in about 15 minutes. I stuffed the posters and T-shirts into the trunk of my car and walked two blocks to the crowd which was plainly visible at the edge of the park. We arrived only to find that Rockwell had been handcuffed and loaded into a paddy wagon. These 4 frames are of that moment and reporters can be seen talking to Rockwell who was behind the wire mesh. Although several hundreds of White people rallied at the park, the local news media announced that “a few of the curious showed up.”More
“Launching the National Fair Housing Debate: A Closer Look at the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement”

Forty years ago this year, civil rights activists launched the first large-scale fair housing campaign in the country. By the mid-1960’s, legally sanctioned segregation was clearly crumbling. Protest in the south had led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, addressing some of the worst racial injustices. But the subtler injustice of the north, which perpetuated the concentration of millions of poor black Americans in ghettoes, had remained largely intact. Inequality of opportunity stemming from de facto housing and school segregation was – and remains – a pressing civil rights concern. In 1966 the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), in conjunction with other Chicago-based groups, attempted to adapt the nonviolent protest strategy so successful in the south to the northern urban environment. This experiment was neither a failure nor a complete success, but it did manage to spotlight the racial injustice of the northern ghetto.
Studying the 1966 Chicago Freedom Movement is not merely a historical exercise. The social problems targeted by civil rights groups in Chicago forty years ago – especially racially segregated housing and education, and the resulting inequality of opportunity – are still pressing problems. Understanding the root of these problems, and the obstacles faced by organizers in Chicago, is essential to formulating effective solutions today. As historian David Garrow notes:

Achieving the Dream: Nation of Islam

A crowd of Black Muslims applaud during Elijah Muhammad's annual Savior’s Day message in Chicago in 1974. (Source: Photo by John White/National Archives)
The Nation of Islam was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1930, but soon established a mosque in Chicago under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad’s message of racial dignity, self-reliance, and separatism had strong appeal to many blacks suffering from racial oppression and the economic hardships of the Depression. However, Muhammad’s sharp condemnation of whites as “blue-eyed devils” and the creators of black problems caused many to label him as a racist.
In 1955, a young nightclub entertainer named Louis Walcott joined the Nation of Islam. He later took the name Louis Farrakhan and became a minister. A dynamic speaker and charismatic leader, Farrakhan quickly rose to become a leading figure in the organization. 

Howard University | Unity Nation
Khalid Muhammad, a former spokesman for the Nation of Islam, spoke to an audience at Howard University. Late last year, Mr. Muhammad drew criticism for a speech he delivered at Kean College in New Jersey. Some considered the remarks he made to be racist and anti-Semitic. He was later criticized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Before Mr. Muhammad spoke, a number of speakers prayed, sang, and spoke. Mr. Muhammad arrived about 40 minutes after the program began. Mr. Hughes called for $100 donations and a number of individuals came forward to give money to help Mr. Muhammad. Mr. Muhammad spoke for about 90 minutes. During his speech, a woman on stage would occasionally rise and sing. Mr. Muhammad had no criticism of Minister Farrakhan and referred to him as his spiritual leader. He and others were critical of black leaders who earlier condemned Khalid Muhammad’s remarks.





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