November 11, 1951
It had already been a snowy winter in Chicago. Not really good for students who lived in Hyde Park. That section of the city is still a beautiful place to live. It is close to the lake. It has great homes and large apartments. People walk every where.
There were interesting stores, good restaurants and open spaces. Famous universities and museums made this an ideal neighborhood for singles and families. My relatives had owned a typical two family semi-attached building on Maryland Avenue since the 1920s. The block had become an oasis for Black families who were locating from Holly Springs, Ms.
Little had changed since then in the racial make-up until the Hyde Park-Kenwood agreement* in 1948. The Supreme Court had overturned Restrictive Covenants on real estate as unconstitutional. Titles to property that had these clauses had the effect of keeping designated groups from buying and/or renting in perpetuity. Thus, making a ‘gated’ community of whole sections of the city. High standards of public services were guaranteed.
And so, when I returned to Chicago after college and a year at the School of Religion, Howard University, I roomed next to my cousins. The advantages outweighed the negative: transportation. My job as a caseworker took me to the far westside. One thing the city fathers forgot was a plan to move diagonally from point A to point B. The office and my West Maxwell Street caseload were a challenge. Also, my bedroom was so small I could not stand if the ironing board was up.
The housing frustration was shared by several co-workers and we were able to share a large apartment on Hyde Park Blvd. New property owners were beginning to change the complexion of the area. I did not consider our unique arrangement until after we moved in. We were just happy to have space. Our popularity exploded. We became beatniks before we new the term. I quit my job and enrolled in the famous George Williams College just a few streets away.
Not too long after that, I got a call from a casual college friend. She informed that I would get a call from a lawyer. He did call to inform that I was required to show the apartment whenever asked. He said investors were buying the large building and because I was the only minority, I would have to comply. I was angry and scared. Luckily my favorite lawyer was my cousin. He actually worked in the building with Atty. Journay White! A few steps up and Mr. White was told to leave his best cousin alone. That is how I was part of block busting, a common tactic to control the racial makeup of people living in an area.**
And then, the college was asked to recommend someone to work at a settlement on the Westside. I was lucky to have my maroon storm coat and my green fleece lined ankle boots, a typical caseworker outfit. The weather did not cooperate. Some days I never got where I was going.
It seemed logical to buy a car even though I could not drive. One student worked at Hull House. He drove me to work and later we came back to Hyde Park. It was a 1937 Ford barely driven by the little old lady owner. It also did not like the piles of snow now covering streets and sidewalks.
On November 11, 1951 the University of Wisconsin played Penn State. My roommate and I took the train to Madison. She had been invited by a friend of mine and I tagged along. The train was delayed while the engineer got out to clear the tracks. I needed my uniform because there was no heat. When we finally arrived, the weather was 70 degrees and it had no snow!
That is how I met my future husband. I never really understood the game of football.
* Supreme Court ruling on Restrictive Covenants, May 3, 1948
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**Block busting is a practice to build fear that minorities are moving into an area. This is to get quick sales of other houses.