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Creating an Open and Just City, 1966

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When Martin Luther King and SCLC took their non-violent protest movement north to help the black community combat racism in Chicago, they faced their greatest challenge. This document explains their understanding of the problems they faced, and outlines steps they planned to take to bring about change.


Introduction: The Problems of Racism, Ghettoes, and Slums

...Chicago today is a divided city -- segregated in all areas of social and economic activity, in employment, in education, in housing and in community organization. The Negro community is sectioned off from the larger metropolis into areas of the city that have been set aside for black ghettoes. Within these confines the Negro community is regulated from the outside like a colony -- its potential economic resources underdeveloped, its more than one million inhabitants, the daily victims of personal rebuffs, insults and acts of prejudice, and its poorer citizens at the mercy of police, welfare workers, and minor government officials.

Racism in the large Northern cities has not featured lynchings, denial of the vote, or other clear injustices that could easily be removed as is the case in the South. Yet, racism in Chicago has been a stark reality, visible in many dimensions. It is reflected in the existence of the massive over-crowded ghetto that grows each year. It is reflected in the crime-infested slums where the living standards of the Negro poor often do not cover the bare necessities of urban living. It is reflected in the exploitation of Negroes by the dominant white society in higher rents and prices, lower wages and poorer schools.

Under the system of northern racism the Negro receives inferior and second-class status in every area of urban living. The Negro is concentrated in the low-paying and second-rate jobs. In housing, proportionately more Negroes live in substandard or deteriorating dwellings. In education, Negro schools have more inexperienced teachers, fewer classrooms, and less expenditures per pupil. In the maintenance of law and order Negroes are frequently the victims of police brutality and of stop and search methods of crime detection.

All Negroes in Chicago are confined to the ghetto and suffer second class treatment regardless of their social or economic status. But the worst off are the Negro poor, locked into the slum which is the most deprived part of the ghetto. The forty (40) per cent of the Negro population who make up a black urban peasantry in the slums are the hardest hit victims of discrimination and segregation. Their incomes often have to be supplemented by welfare payments dispensed under procedures that are ugly and paternalistic. They are frequently unemployed. They are forced to live in rat infested buildings or in the Chicago Housing Authority's cement reservations. Their children are all but ignored by the school system. In short they have been frozen out of American society by both race and poverty...

In many instances, although... restrictive policies have now been formally abolished or concealed, the effects of their operations over several decades remains. Very often, Negroes are no longer excluded consciously and deliberately. In employment, personnel men need not discriminate so long as Chicago's inferior schools send their pupils into the labor market less prepared than white graduates. Realtors can justify their discrimination when white parents rightfully fear that integrated schools eventually deteriorate because the school system considers them less important than white schools. School administrators can efficiently segregate by following neighborhood school policies in allocating school facilities....

The Chicago Freedom Movement

The Chicago Freedom Movement is a coalition of forces for the purpose of wiping out slums, ghettoes and racism. Its core is formed by the unity of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.) and the Co-ordinating Council of Community Organizations (C.C.C.O.). S.C.L.C., operating under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was invited to Chicago by C.C.C.O. because of its dynamic work in the South. C.C.C.O. is a coalition of thirty-six (36) Chicago civil-rights and Negro community organizations. Cooperating with the Chicago Freedom Movement are a number of religious organizations, social agencies, neighborhood groups and individuals of good will.

Many groups in the Chicago region share with Negroes common problems of slum housing, welfare dependency, inferior education, police brutality, and color discrimination. Puerto Rican and Mexican Chicagoans are becoming increasingly vocal about these problems, and the Freedom Movement is seeking ways to join in a united effort with its Latin American brothers. Therefore, the Freedom Movement is making many proposals that provide for the improvement and upgrading of conditions of Latin Americans, other non-whites and some white minorities.

The Freedom Movement proposals and demands are designed to set the broad guidelines for a just and open city in which all men can live with dignity. Three interrelated goals set forth the direction to such a society:

1. To bring about equality of opportunity and of results.

2. To open up the major areas of metropolitan life of housing, employment, and education.

3. To provide power for the powerless...

In order to generate the necessary power the movement will:

1. Organize a series of direct actions which will make the injustices so clear that the whole community will respond to the need to change.

2. Organize people in every sector of the ghettoes -- in neighborhoods, in schools, in welfare unions, in public housing, in hospitals, to give the strength of numbers to the demands for change.

3. Strengthen the institutions which contribute to the goals of a just and open society and withdraw support from those institutions -- banks, businesses, newspapers and professions -- which drain the resources of the ghetto communities without contributing in return.

4. Demand representation of the organizations of the ghetto community (Chicago Freedom Movement) on decision-making bodies at every level of government, industry, labor, and church, affecting the lives of people in the ghetto.

5. Promote political education and participation so that the needs and aspirations of Negroes and other oppressed minorities are fully represented.

The Chicago Freedom Movement and its constituent organizations use many means to bring about change. Community organization, education, research, job development, legal redress and political education are all weapons in the arsenal of the Movement. But, its most distinctive and creative tool is that of non-violent direct action.

Non-violence is based on the truth that each human being has infinite dignity and worth. This truth, which is at the heart of our religious and democratic heritage, is denied by systems of discrimination and exploitation. The beginning of change in such systems of discrimination is for men to assert with simple dignity and humanity that they are men and human and that they will no longer be oppressed or oppressors. A just society is born when men cease to be accomplices in a system of degradation...

The Chicago Freedom Movement commits itself to the struggle for freedom and justice in this metropolis and pledges our non-violent movement to the building of the beloved community where men will live as brothers and no group or class or nation will raise its hand against another.

An Open and Just City

To wipe out slums, ghettoes, and racism we must create an open city with equal opportunities and equal results. To this end we have drawn up program proposals for employment and income, housing and metropolitan planning, education, financial services, police and legal protection. We only sketch the major ideas of the full program here as that document shall be released shortly...

In employment our program proposals call for fair employment by the elimination of all forms of job bias and of all measures which screen out minority groups. The proposals call for full employment at decent wages by the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs in rebuilding our city and in new sub-professional positions in health, education, and welfare. We call for effective job training and retraining with the provision of a job at the successful completion of the program.

In housing our program calls for an open city in which no man is discriminated against. We call for adequate financing and programs for the redevelopment of slum and deteriorating housing and for the elimination of exploitation by slum lords. We call for humanization of the present public housing projects. We propose the development of a vastly increased supply of decent low and middle cost housing throughout the Chicago area.

In planning we call for the development of a metropolitan-wide land and transportation plan, including the City of Chicago, that will promote and facilitate access to jobs and housing for all men throughout the entire region; the plan would include the development of new areas, the eradication of slums and the redevelopment of these blighted areas both in Chicago and the older suburbs.

In welfare we call for the elimination of welfare dependency by a guaranteed adequate annual income as a matter of right with provision for payment in the most dignified manner possible. In the immediate future, pending the change in the manner of income distribution, we propose measures to humanize the welfare system and to strengthen the autonomy and rights of recipients.

In politics and governments we call for increased representation of Negroes, Latin Americans, and other exploited minorities.

We call for measures to equalize protection from police and the courts, including a citizen review board to monitor complaints of police brutality and arbitrary arrest...

Source: Program of the Chicago Freedom Movement, July, 1966. http://cfm40.middlebury.edu/node/12?PHPSESSID=af27a7f0d8f6fff23298a609bc333b67

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