Moving Toward Whiteness

Urban Change, Social Housing and Ethnic Relationships in Chicago after the WWII

  • Marco Moschetti Indipendent researcher
Keywords: immigrants, race riots, african americans, ethnic studies, urban history, chicago


The history of Chicago in the WWII post-war period was characterized by two main issue: a series of new urban plannings and a strong internal mobility. Both, however, started in the decades before WWII. The large masses of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe, to which the African Americans added after the 1920s arriving from the rural South, needed spaces to inhabit. At the same time, many agencies involved in this new urbanization, especially the Chicago Housing Authority, planned a series of interventions that, in addition to change the structure of the city, had a deeply in uence on the relations between ethnic communities. Moreover, since the early 20th century, the strong industrialization of the city, with the consequent need for labor and low-cost housing for these new workers, transformed the urban landscape very deeply, gradually changing until made disappear what for Fisher was the “green soul of Chicago”, to which immigrants participated signi cantly (Fisher, 2015). This paper aim to reconstruct how the continuous changes of the boundaries in the urban environment, supported and executed by public actors (e.g. the University of Chicago and the City administration itself) as private, have had a direct impact on relationships between social and ethnic groups and on urban and extra- urban mobility. Due to this, fuel for struggles was provided and questions like the "white ight" took place. As main aftermath, some communities have entered, before others, into the new American middle class.