Black Mothers and Black Power: Challenging the Chicago Real Estate Board

Dawn Flood, Campion College at the University of Regina

Organized in 1968, Chicago’s Black Panther Party (BPP) challenged police violence and set up programs, including a free breakfast program and medical clinic, to serve the city’s poor residents. Often targeted as just another armed street gang, black mothers were appalled when State’s Attorney Edward Hanrahan announced the founding of a special gangs unit by suggesting that Panther members were “animals” unfit for civilized society. Many poor mothers, however, understood that the BPP was feeding their children when Daley’s aldermen were not. Black Power organizing continued beyond the murder of the Chicago BPP’s charismatic leader in 1969, and included efforts from women to challenge the status quo on the basis of racial pride and as community protectors. They took absentee landlords to court, while artist cooperatives literally exposed residential misdeeds by creating public murals with themes that clarified the extent of discrimination faced by those forced to live in crumbling tenant apartments. Efforts to challenge the Chicago Real Estate Board’s policies with rent strikes and ongoing publicity that exposed the city’s most neglectful real estate magnates saw some success, due to the efforts of residents in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods. These residents may not have embraced black power publicly, but were nonetheless involved in the movement in ways that deserve historical attention.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 29. Gender, Power, and Law