When the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) was created in 1937 the organization's mission was to provide decent and affordable housing for low-income people. As thousands of African Americans migrated to Chicago from the South after World War II, a combination of public policy and private exclusion forced them to turn to the CHA for housing. Through political manipulation and racism, the CHA became a tool to segregate, confine, and conceal Chicago's burgeoning African American population. By the 1960s, 99 percent of CHA tenants were African American and over 90 percent of CHA developments were located in predominantly African American neighborhoods. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the CHA's role in segregating African Americans through three events in the organization's history. After an exploration of the city's historical background, the first event examined is the political struggle in the late 1940s that determined the location of future CHA projects in African American neighborhoods. The experience of an African American family that integrated a CHA project in 1953 and the rioting that followed is the focus of the second event. Finally, the construction of a figurative "wall" of public housing projects served to isolate, segregate, and concentrate thousands of low income African Americans. This blatant discrimination motivated a group of CHA tenants and a dedicated public interest lawyer to challenge the CHA's racist housing patterns in court. The nearly twenty-year effort to end state sponsored segregation would be the dramatic conclusion to the CHA's discriminatory housing policies and is the final event described. This thesis shows how the process of segregating African Americans took generations and undoing this public housing failure will take even longer.


Roche, Jeff




African American Studies | Urban Studies


chicago, chicago housing authority, african americans, segregation, race, housing

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



© Copyright 2013 David T. Greetham