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After Martin Luther King, Jr., working with the Chicago Freedom Movement, negotiated with the city of Chicago on public housing issues, some local blacks felt that he had been duped by empty promises. Members of the Congress of Racial Equality decided to march to Cicero, Illinois on September 4, 1966.
Racial segregation and violence were deeply rooted in Cicero. In 1951 there was a major racial crisis when the Clarks, a black family, rented an apartment and in response 6,000 white people violently attacked the family of a black bus driver. Then Illinois governor, Adlai Stevenson called in the National Guard. In the end Harvey Clark and his family were never able to live in Cicero.
In 1966 Cicero still had no black residents, but many blacks were employed in the city. When protesters marched through town, white residents threw bottles and bricks at the activists. But the marchers were not pledged to nonviolence; they picked up the bricks and bottles and threw them right back. The divide between races seemed to be getting wider, and more blacks felt drawn to the nationalist preaching of Malcolm X.