The Chicago Campaign 1965-6


The Chicago Campaign 1965-6: Why move North?

  • The Watts riots in Los Angeles  1965 drew MLK's attention to poverty and deprivation in the north and west
  • MLK believed he must channel black discontent into non-violent campaigns or else there would be more riots like Watts and white sympathy would vanish
  • 1940-1960: number or blacks living outside the South rose rom 4 million to 9 million: by the 1960s, most African Americans lived outside the South for the first time
  • The Moynihan Report 1965 drew attention to high levels of crime and poverty  in black communities: some whites used this report to blame the blacks for their problems and claim they were incapable of helping themselves. Black radicals attacked the report for this reason, causing tension between LBJ and the black campaigners
  • THE DECISION TO MOVE CAMPAIGNS TO THE NORTH WAS MLK'S: Stanley Levison feared that the SCLC would be stretching its resources too thinly if it tried to campaign in the North and South at the same time: did not have the manpower or local knowledge to gain support or be effective in Chicago
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Why Chicago?

  • Widespread anger in many northern cities about the poor education provided in black schools: provoked school boycott by local black parents
  • MLK knew these boycotts could not be sustained without damaging the black community further. He was especially concerned with the issue of housing
  • As in Montgomery, Albany, Birmingham and Selma MLK was invited to intervene by local activists: more support here than NY or Philadelphia
  • Chicago already had a local co-ordinating organistion dedicated to non-violence: CCCO (put together during the school boycott)
  • MLK attracted by the power of the Chicago Democratic Mayor: Richard Daley. He said he agreed with MLK about black poverty, slum housing, discrimination and segregation and applauded MLK on winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
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MLK's aims

  • End de facto educational discrimination and segregation
  • Housing: blacks forme over 20% of the population (over 800,000 out of 4 million) but were almost entirely confined to the ghettos on the south and west sides
  • The "Open City" became his main aim (white neighbourhoods being opened up to blacks). Highlighted bythe burning in 1964 of 3 ouses bought by blqakcs in white neighbourhoods
  • Operation Breadbasket: aimed to use boycotts by black consumers to force white employers to end job discrimination against blacks
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Why did his southern tactics not work?

  • MLK accepted a court order restricting the marchers, weakening his hand in negotiations with Mayor Daley
  • Most whites believed problems had been solved by the Voting Rights Act: marches created a white blacklash. West Side Ghetto in Juley 1966: talks of "Black Power" made this worse
  • Problems could not simply be solved by changing the law as there was never any de jure segregation in the North: relieving black poverty would also cost white taxpayers money which they would not accept. MLK estimated this would take atleast 10 years
  • CRM in Chicago was very divided: the CCCO included 36 civil rights groups and several religious groups
  • His position on the Vietnam War lost him LBJ's support and many white civilians
  • SCLC did not have the manpower to reach over 800,000 blacks in Chicago
  • Churches were less effective in Chicago: most ghetto dwellers didn't go to church or regard the ministers as their leaders
  • Daley was clever and also knew nearly 80% of Chicago voters were white and wanted to retain their support for re-election
  • White trade unions had ties with Daley
  • MK was distracted by the campaigns in Mississippi and to continue James Meredith's "Walk against Fear" and Memphis, Tennessee
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The Agreement

  • Marchers faced increasing violence (especially in the suburb of Gage Park), so both Daley and MLK were keen to negotiate
  • An agreement was drawn up included a promise by the estate agents to end discrimination against blacks (which MLK accepted despite its vital flaws e.g. no time period/scale)
  • Agreement allowed MLK to withdraw from Chicago claiming a victory but in reality little had actually been achieved
  • Because of this, many local blacks became disillusioned with MLK's non-violent tactics and turned to more radical leaders
  • Most effective long term element of the campaign: Jesse Jackson's Operation Breadbasket which used the threat of consumer boycotts to negotiate job openings for blacks (continued after MLK left)
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