'The South Side' Explores How Segregation and Racial Inequity Transformed Chicago

May 26, 2017

While Milwaukee may be considered the United States’ most segregated city, our neighbors just south of us aren’t too much better. Chicago is consistently ranked as one of the most segregated cities in the U.S., and much like Milwaukee, its history is rooted in government sanctioned racism.

For decades, racially restrictive covenants forced black Chicagoans to live in a designated area of the city known as the Black Belt. The use of these covenants was struck down by the Supreme Court in the late 1940s, but that wasn't the end of their impact.

"That precipitated white flight. You had white neighborhoods in Chicago and in Milwaukee that turned from white to black very quickly," says  Natalie Moore, South Side Reporter at Chicago's NPR affiliate, WBEZ. "And those neighborhoods were able to turn because the federal government started building highways for people to live in these new suburbs and loans often favored white families in those suburbs."

Moore is  the author of a new book, The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, which she will discuss this Sunday in Milwaukee at an event at Boswell Books. The book is not just a "portrait of Chicago," it's also a portrait of Moore's life growing up in the city, where her family has been living for more than a century. 

The South Side​ explores how segregation and racial inequity transformed Chicago communities and impacted the course of her life. And while the book is called The South Side it could just as easily be called, "The North Side," were it set in Milwaukee, where the majority of the city's black community is located. 

"I think there are a lot of commonalities, particularly in the Midwest and the Northeast, that we see around housing and black communities, and also this invisibility of black, working-class and middle-class neighborhoods," says Moore.