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This is Chicago
January 11, 2014 8:55 AM   Subscribe

City of Necessity, a 22-minute documentary from 1961, explores race, class, life, and culture in midcentury Chicago. WBEZ writeup by Lee Bey.
posted by dinty_moore (6 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Thank you for the link...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 9:11 AM on January 11


The thing I found most fascinating by this is the view of the then-new high rise projects, especially the view of them as mostly-progressive. Also, the scenes of the kids in the slums playing in the streets.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:26 AM on January 11


The thing I found most fascinating by this is the view of the then-new high rise projects, especially the view of them as mostly-progressive. Also, the scenes of the kids in the slums playing in the streets.

Yeah, that's sort of what I'm wondering about, coupled with Daley being all "There are no ghettos in my super-shiny modern city." I mean, the nominal point of the projects was to give people access to a better standard of housing, but I can't tell from the film to what extent they understood the racism involved or if I'm imposing understanding on the filmmakers in hindsight.
posted by hoyland at 9:38 AM on January 11


Well, the next shot after Daley's announcement was of a dilapidated slum, so I'm comfortable believing that the filmmaker knew that was bull.

The projects - it's a little more difficult. You do have someone talking about how they don't want to live in a high rise apartment and that the poor don't really have a choice in where they end up, but a lot of the issues with the high rise projects (lack of funding, shoddy materials that didn't wear well, lack of oversight, overcrowding) wouldn't have necessarily been obvious when the buildings were created. I mean, the biggest one - the fact that there's no infrastructure around the projects to support the people who live there - should have been obvious at the time, and I could believe that detail was somehow missed.
posted by dinty_moore at 9:50 AM on January 11


a lot of the issues with the high rise projects (lack of funding, shoddy materials that didn't wear well, lack of oversight, overcrowding) wouldn't have necessarily been obvious when the buildings were created.

There's the issue of whether those issues are inherent in high-rise projects or purely failings of the CHA or somewhere in between.

I mean, the biggest one - the fact that there's no infrastructure around the projects to support the people who live there - should have been obvious at the time, and I could believe that detail was somehow missed.

I guess one thing that stands out (as I sit in my living room looking at a high-rise out the window) is that Minneapolis seems to have taken something of a different tack than Chicago, in that there aren't large expanses of high rises here (I think the biggest groupings I can think of are about three buildings), but I don't know why they did that or if it's been noticeably more successful.*

*I will fall over shocked if the answer is Minneapolis intentionally doing good urban planning (assuming it worked). Actually, they probably went "We just hosed a bunch of neighbourhoods with our giant freaking interchanges, might as well build some public housing there."
posted by hoyland at 10:11 AM on January 11


This is a terrific documentary. I lived in Chicago in those years and recall many of those sights. The big tragedy I recall, which is not addressed here, is that the slums were destroyed first, leaving the people who lived there nowhere to go. It was an incredible thing to see; miles and miles of buildings flattened, devastated. I never could understand what happened to all the people who lived there. The high rises were built later. I remember no "progressive" support for the high rises. I seem to recall that they were almost universally hated.
posted by charlesminus at 2:31 PM on January 11


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