Demographics and decline
Through the first century of its existence, Chicago was among the fastest-growing cities in the world, with the 1950 census reporting 3,620,962 residents at the high-water mark. In the early 20th century, however the Black community grew rapidly as a result of the Great Migration, creating high racial tensions culminating in the Chicago Race Riot of 1919. By 1940 the Black population was 278,000, about 8% of the 3,396,808, total population reported, but was heavily concentrated in the South Side.
Migration from the South slowed during the Great Depression, but picked up with the explosion of factory jobs during World War II. Racial tensions again rose, but White Chicagoans were able to preserve their neighborhoods from darkening through use of restrictive covenants; so important a tool did these prove that by one 1940 estimate 80% of Chicago's residential areas were subject to restrictive covenants.
White Chicagoans of all stripes felt the covenants necessary to protect their communities, and particularly their women, from Black crime. In the 1940s, for instance, Fr. Constantine Dzink, pastor of St. Louis the King Catholic church in Detroit, pled to the Chicago Housing Authority that construction of a housing project in a then-White neighborhood "would mean utter ruin for many people who have mortgaged their homes to the F.H.A. and not only that, but it would jeopardize the safety of many of our white girls, as no colored people live closely by. Lastly, it would ruin the neighborhood, one that could be built up into a fine residential section. It is the sentiment of all people residing within the vicinity to object against this project in order to stop race riots in the future," (italics his). His plea was ignored, resulting in the Fernwood Park Race Riot of 1947.
The next year, the Supreme Court ruled restrictive covenants unconstitutional in Shelley v. Kraemer, and in Chicago as everywhere else all restrictive covenants were eventually dismantled despite resistance from the White community.
The situation has continued to deteriorate for White residents, and racial tension most famously came to a head again in the Chicago Race Riots of 1968. Significant White flight has continued into the 21st century as crime and municipal corruption increased. As of 2010, the population of Chicago has fallen to 2,695,598, and is majority non-White. The racial composition of the city was:
- 45.0% White (31.7% White non-Hispanic);
- 32.9% Black;
- 13.4% some other race;
- 5.5% Asian;
- 2.7% Mixed race;
- 0.5% Amerindian.
Included in the above, chiefly among nominal "Whites" and "some other race", is a Hispanic or Latino population of 28.9%. Blogger and urban historian Paul Kersey and Vdare.com columnist James Kirkpatrick chronicled the racial factor in the city's long decline in their 2013 Second City Confidential: The Black Experience in Chicagoland.
- African Americans Encyclopedia of Chicago. Accessed August 12, 2013.
- Iron Ring in Housing The Crisis (NAACP magazine) at Wendy Plotkin Professional WWW Page. July 1940. Accessed August 12, 2013.
- Constantine Dzink. Letter of Detroit Catholic Priest at Wendy Plotkin Professional WWW Page. Accessed August 12, 2013.
- American FactFinder - Results Accessed August 12, 2013.