WHITE RACISTS OF CICERO ILLINOIS RIOT (1951)

Cicero, Illinois where a race riot took place in July, 1951. The aftermath of World War II saw a revival of white attacks on black mobility, mostly on the city’s South and Southwest Sides, but also in the western industrial suburb of Cicero. Aspiring African American professionals seeking to obtain improved housing beyond the increasingly overcrowded South Side ghetto, whether in private residences or in the new public housing developments constructed by the Chicago Housing Authority, were frequently greeted by attempted arsons, bombings, and angry white mobs often numbering into the thousands. The 1951 Cicero riot, in particular, lasting several nights and involving roughly two to five thousand white protesters, attracted worldwide condemnation. Harvery Clark Jr. was a “Negro” bus driver who tried to move into the all white neighborhood with his family. Vandals threw their possessions out of the window and set them on fire. According to the Chicago Tribune account, “In 2 nights of rioting, some 3000 persons battled police and National Guardsmen. 23 civilians, police and Guardsmen were injured and 119 persons arrested.” The building was severely damaged and had to be boarded up. The Clark’s moved away. By the end of the 1950s, with black residential presence somewhat more firmly established, the battleground in many South Side neighborhoods shifted to clashes over black attempts to gain unimpeded access to neighborhood parks and beaches.