|Yeah, Tom Buchanan was right about the 'rising tide of color' stuff|
A greater culture of safety and protection can be traced to the University’s role in urban renewal in Hyde Park and Kenwood and the creation of the South East Chicago Commission (SECC) in 1952. The 1950s saw a greater concern in safety in the area, as neighborhood residents grew increasingly concerned with the state of dilapidated buildings and unsavory businesses.
“In February of ‘52, there was a faculty wife assaulted and robbed on the Midway,” said Mason, who also served as the executive director of the SECC from 1982 to 2009. “That seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Numerous faculty members and senior staff members went in to see the Chancellor…and de- manded that something be done. Either move the University out of this horrible area or do something to clean [it] up.”
Lecturing in 1951 at the Harvard School Design, he said: “How can we keep cities that represent the toil and sweat and invested labor and capital of generations from becoming ghost towns.”
He would close his talk by saying, “I don’t believe that cities are lost unless we are prepared to abandon them.” (p. 118)
At first the area’s dominant institution, the University of Chicago, refused to cooperate with the conference, but by 1952 worsening neighborhood conditions were causing a loss of faculty and students, thus requiring the university to intervene. A community activist reported that the trustees and administrators were “forced to admit that if they didn’t engage in community action, they might end up with a $200,000,000 investment in a slum, without anybody to do research or any students to educate.” Responding to the problem, the university was instrumental in organizing and funding the South East Chicago Commission headed by the university’s president. The commission stepped up pressure on the city to halt illegal conversions [illegal conversions of single-family dwellings into apartments and the threat of white flight as blacks moved into the area was the catalyst for the creation of the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference], and the university’s private police force patrolled Hyde Park, supplementing the inadequate municipal protection. (p. 118)
Meanwhile, the University of Chicago was embarking on an even more ambitious program dedicated to saving its neighborhood for the middle class. Located in the Hyde Park district of Chicago’s South Side adjacent to Bronzeville, the university was in the path of the expanding African American community; by the late 1940s, an invasion of poor blacks seemed imminent. Responding to this threat, in 1952 the university established the South East Chicago Commission, which drafted a plan for spot clearance of the area’s most blighted structures and rehabilitation or conservation of the remaining buildings. The idea was to eliminate dilapidated housing with rents affordable to low-income blacks and upgrade or preserve the remaining dwelling units for middle-class occupants.
In 1955 demolition began, and the following year the commission secured approval for $26 million in federal urban renewal funds. The neighborhood was not to be lily-white; middle-class blacks were not to be excluded. But Hyde Park was to remain a bastion against lower-class invaders. One comedian joked: “This is Hyde Park, whites and blacks shoulder to shoulder against the lower class.”
“The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”
“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously toward the fervent sun.