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1966 federal ban on racial discrimination in housing
June 5, 2008 11:46 AM   Subscribe

The Meaning of Box 722. Letters to Senator Paul Douglas of Illinois in reaction to the 1966 civil rights bill, particularly the federal ban on racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing. At the time, Chicago was the most segregated city in the north, with boundaries enforced by mob violence. By Rick Perlstein, author of Nixonland. When I started researching NIXONLAND I knew the congressional elections of 1966 would form a crucial part of the narrative. They'd never really been examined in-depth before, but by my reckoning they were the crucial hinge that formed the ideological alignment we live in now. Via Brad DeLong.
posted by russilwvong (15 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't remember where I read it, but apparently Chicago is still a city that's among those most racially-segregated by neighborhood.
posted by mikeh at 12:02 PM on June 5, 2008


Great post. Thanks.
posted by googly at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2008


Way to go Russ. great links.
posted by tkchrist at 12:18 PM on June 5, 2008


I'm hardly a grizzled old man, and yet I remember hearing those very phrases ("The average citizen is losing his rights" "NEGROES HAVE BEEN MADE THE BOSS OF THE UNITED STATES." etc) spoken in my lifetime (by my public school teachers, no less). That we have moved from there to here is an important footnote to the whole Obama campaign that can't be stressed enough. Well presented.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 12:46 PM on June 5, 2008


We need more archives posted online.
posted by jb at 1:46 PM on June 5, 2008


I don't remember where I read it, but apparently Chicago is still a city that's among those most racially-segregated by neighborhood.

Living in Boston and having visited Chicago, I'm fairly comfortable in guessing we are worse than the Windy City, at least in this unfortunate regard.
posted by jalexei at 2:23 PM on June 5, 2008


It wasn't just Chicago, most large northern cities had embraced de facto segregation as a rule. J. Anthoney Lukas in his book, "Common Ground" made an insightful analysis of the desegregation of the Boston public schools and its effect on the politcal leanings of the white middle class.

Rereading the book recently, I was struck by the degree to which this analysis of the middle class white response to the desegregation of schools and neighborhoods explains the current political rift between the white working class and the Democratic Party. It is the problem the Obama is having with areas like W. VA. and to a lessor degree PA. and Ohio.

One might say that Nixon's "southern stategy" was expanded to the suburban north by subsequent Republican generations through an understanding of this prevaling sentiment.

Maybe folks younger than me will be immune to the racist attitudes that divide the country for political gain. This coming campaign will be an interesting test.
posted by mygoditsbob at 2:42 PM on June 5, 2008


Thanks for the links. Anyone interested in suburban segregation is advised to read Sundown Towns by James Loewen.
Related wikipedia article here
posted by jtron at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2008


J. Anthony Lukas in his book, "Common Ground" made an insightful analysis of the desegregation of the Boston public schools and its effect on the politcal leanings of the white middle class.

Rick Perlstein himself is a big fan of J. Anthony Lukas. In fact, he dedicated the book Nixonland to him.
posted by jonp72 at 4:58 PM on June 5, 2008


Great post. But:

It's time for me to help give a sense of just how far we have come.

I think there may be a tad too much self-congratulation. Yeah, we've come a ways, but there's still a lot of segregation, and there are a lot of white people who would happily echo the sentiments of those letters. If Obama is elected, that will be great, but there will still be a lot of segregation and a lot of white people who would happily echo the sentiments of those letters.
posted by languagehat at 5:12 PM on June 5, 2008


Here is the fundamental tragedy of the backlash: Voters like this empowered a party that decided they didn't need protection against predatory subprime mortgage fraud. Didn't need affordable, universal health insurance; made it easier for companies to rape their pensions; kept on going back to the well to destroy their Social Security; worked avidly to shred their union protections. Fought, in fact, every decent and wise social provision that made it possible in the first place for mere factory workers to live in glorious Chicago bungalows, or suburban homes, in the first place.

I'd say "QFT" but I disagree somewhat with the last line, so . ..

ZZiing!
posted by tachikaze at 6:19 PM on June 5, 2008


languagehat: If Obama is elected, that will be great, but there will still be a lot of segregation and a lot of white people who would happily echo the sentiments of those letters.

I thing the major difference is something he hints at which is all too often forgotten and overlooked. Segregation and second class status was enforced by violent means. People may echo those sentiments nowadays, but I don't think the average racist citizen feels empowered to act on their fear and hatred with guns and ropes and torches. Yeah, we still have a way to go, but relatively speaking we're still new at this whole equality thing. 200+ years of slavery, followed by 100 years of second-class citizenship, and and only a mere 40 years later a Black man has a serious shot at the highest office in the land. Not perfect, but in the minds of many, much better than expected.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:24 PM on June 5, 2008


I don't remember where I read it, but apparently Chicago is still a city that's among those most racially-segregated by neighborhood.

Living in Boston and having visited Chicago, I'm fairly comfortable in guessing we are worse than the Windy City, at least in this unfortunate regard.


Having grown up in Chicago, I can tell you that it depends on where you go in Chicago, and where the segregation is most severe it changes by the block: on this side of the street, everyone's X, and on that side, everyone's Y. There are areas where you'll never find an apartment using the classified ads, because everyone puts up for rent signs in the window -- you have to knock on the door, so that they can see your face before they'll even consider talking to you about an apartment. You can throw out a neighborhood name and almost always guess the ethnicity of the person who says they live there. There's a neighborhood on the North Side (the name escapes me) that is Puerto Rican, period, and they have a huge metal Puerto Rican flag sculpture spanning both sides of the main street in.

Perhaps I can put it best by noting that when I moved to LA and bought a house, and found I was living on a block with black, white, hispanic and asian folks, it actually blew my mind. So yeah, Chicago's segregated pretty significantly. Not "if you rent an apartment her we're going to blow up the building" segregated -- that's what the 60s and early 70s were all about, of course -- but it takes a long time for a place to completely change.

Oh, and where the segregation seems to be absent, it's usually a neighborhood being forcefully gentrified; there's a single ethnic group who's been there forever, and a coordinated group of wealthy real estate professionals buying up buildings over a few years, then turning on the "this neighborhood is hot" publicity machine and selling at a big profit to eager, wealthy professionals. Those transitions take a while, and (if you care about things like crime, property damage and physical violence) the original population does not go lightly. Yet, in those transition years, those areas sure do look integrated!
posted by davejay at 11:54 PM on June 5, 2008


for "if you rent an apartment her we're..." replace her with here.

also, if you want to know which buildings in a gentrifying neighborhood belong to the new wealthy professionals, it's the easiest thing in the world: they have tall iron fences around the entire property, including the car park area.
posted by davejay at 11:57 PM on June 5, 2008


Not perfect, but in the minds of many, much better than expected.

Oh, absolutely, and I have no desire to minimize the progress we've made. It just always makes me nervous when there's too much back-patting about it.
posted by languagehat at 8:58 AM on June 6, 2008


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