Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




After the Supreme Court made restrictive covenants illegal in 1948, violence became the default response for numerous white communities across the South Side of Chicago when African Americans moved into €“ or just passed through €“ their neighborhoods. The civil rights movement's high-profile successes in the first half of the 1960s and the media attention Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s open housing marches on the Southwest Side of Chicago brought to segregation in the urban North made brute force unacceptable to the public at-large. White ethnic residents on Chicago's Southwest Side realized they could no longer resort to violent means to prevent racial turnover and economic disinvestment without attracting unwanted media attention and public scorn. This dissertation utilizes arcHIVal sources, newspapers, and oral history interviews to show how two rival Southwest Side community organizations operated in this new paradigm: the Southwest Community Congress (SCC) and the Southwest Parish and Neighborhood Federation (SPNF). Both the SCC and SPNF pursued non-violent strategies of neighborhood "preservation" by exposing panic-peddling realtors, pressuring apathetic financial institutions, and demanding more resources from the city's political elite, but the divergent ideologies of these two groups created divisions among Southwest Side residents that undermined their efforts to stabilize the area. The SCC included black members and endorsed progressive causes such as women's liberation as a means to dispel the Southwest Side's racist reputation in the press; the SPNF courted public sympathy by demarcating the Southwest Side as a special white ethnic zone. The rift on the Southwest Side between its two leading community organizations complicates existing scholarship on the postwar urban crisis that portrays working-class, white ethnic neighborhoods as static, monolithic "bunker communities" whose inhabitants wholly rejected €“ and tore apart €“ American liberalism.

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