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The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation Hardcover – March 22, 2016
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**One of Buzzfeed's 18 Best Nonfiction Books Of 2016**
A lyrical, intelligent, authentic, and necessary look at the intersection of race and class in Chicago, a Great American City
In this intelligent and highly important narrative, Chicago-native Natalie Moore shines a light on contemporary segregation in the city's South Side; with a memoirist's eye, she showcases the lives of these communities through the stories of people who reside there. The South Side shows the impact of Chicago's historic segregation - and the ongoing policies that keep the system intact.
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**One of Buzzfeed's 18 Best Nonfiction Books Of 2016**
**Author named a 2021 United States Artist Fellow in Writing**
"Moore, a longtime reporter for WBEZ in Chicago and a native of the Chatham neighborhood on the South Side, digs into the ways that segregation continues to shape the politics of her hometown, as well as her own life." ―The Chicago Crusader
"Moore...weaves her life story through a well-researched account of the policies that have shaped Chicago into a city often described as separate and unequal." ―The Chicago Sun-Times
"A reminder that even though great gains have been made in the development of integrated neighborhoods and suburbs, Chicago is still shackled by the chains of segregation, chains that limit the potential of hundreds of thousands of African-Americans and impoverish the lives of all residents of the region...a clarion call for us to break the chains that bind us and allow our imaginations to be free to take on ― and change ― the systemic reality of segregation and its impact on all of us." ―The Chicago Tribune
"What's important about Natalie Y. Moore's new book is less that it's about Chicago's south side, and more that it's of the south side, deeply and lovingly, in a way journalism about the area rarely is...a powerful political document." ―The Chicago Reader
“The South Side is a comprehensive iconoclastic investigation of segregated black Chicago, past and present … an essential book for anyone interested in the history and current state of race in the urban U.S.” ―ShelfAwareness
“Some serious food for thought for dwellers of all US cities.” ―The New York Post
“Recommended reading for anyone who wants to more fully understand the roots of current Chicago issues … Moore's personal reflections are honest and fascinating, making ‘The South Side’ shine.” ―Associated Press
"Moore strikes an admirable balance between palpable love for Chicago's diversities and clear-eyed anger at the powerful forces dividing America's third-largest city into different worlds." ―Pacific Standard
"As questions and criticism about race in America rightfully continue to dominate the national conversation, this book brings the problem right to home. Moore, the South Side bureau reporter for WBEZ, explores how institutionalized segregation continues to keep predominantly black neighborhoods at an economic and educational disadvantage." ―RedEye
"An excellent work for all readers interested in knowing more about important, ongoing urban issues." ―Library Journal
“Thoughtful and clarifying investigation … Moore refines our perception of the realities of segregation and the many possible paths to change.”―Booklist
"Natalie Moore's The South Side is an exquisite exploration of a portion of Chicago that has long embodied the problems and promise of black America. Moore brings her considerable gifts as a journalist and historian to bear along with her knowledge as a South Side native. Moore's latest is essential to anyone attempting to understand race in Chicago, our most American of cities." ―Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me
"Moore has captured the rhythm of Chicago, its beauty and heartbreak, and its racial demons and activist angels with such vibrant prose and personality that she has achieved that rare literary feat: it is both a page-turner and magnum opus. By traveling to the South Side with her, we not only understand why it has been able to produce some of our nation’s most exceptional African American leaders, but also how its ongoing racial segregation haunts and harms the vast majority of Chicagoans today.” ―Salamishah Tillet, Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania
"In a highly readable, conversational style, Moore demonstrates refreshing candor about how racial inequality infuses every aspect of daily life." ―Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
- Publisher : St. Martin's Press (March 22, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 272 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1137280158
- ISBN-13 : 978-1137280152
- Item Weight : 15.9 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.03 x 9.59 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,083,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Moore provides a biography of her family and indeed weaves in personal stories about her life in south Chicago (including up to the present) throughout the book. Both her maternal and paternal grandparents lived impressive lives, escaping the harsh conditions of the South and started out in the bottom of the economic ladder in Chicago while working hard and eventually leaving poverty behind them. Moore grew up in a neighborhood called Chatham. In 1950, Chatham was virtually all white but two decades later was virtually all black. White flight did not ghettoize this neighborhood. The neighborhood was all black but strongly middle class, certainly compared to many of the neighborhoods which surrounded it. Middle class blacks have some economic disabilities not shared by their white counterparts and this is discussed by the author.
Housing is covered prominently in the book as an aspect of racial segregation. Moore goes over a little of the history of segregation in Chicago. She recounts the story of the family of African-American Lorraine Hansberry, the future playwright, which moved into Chicago’s South Side (then) all white Woodlawn neighborhood in 1937, after which they were greeted with bricks thrown through their window by white neighbors. The Hansbury family was forced to move after the Illinois State Supreme Court ruled in favor of a white neighbor’s complaint that the Hansburys were sold the house in violation of a restrictive covenant. Restrictive covenants were then very widely in use by white property owners whereby buyers of property agreed not to sell it to non-white persons. The US Supreme Court ruled in 1940 in favor of the Hansburys but did not rule against racially restrictive covenants. In 1948, the US Supreme court, in Shelby vs. Kraemer, ruled racially restrictive covenants illegal. The author recounts how in 1949, an African American family moved into Chicago’s all-white Park Manor neighborhood but not before white mobs set fire to their furniture, threw bricks into every window of their house, etc. The usual result of blacks moving into white neighborhoods was not integration but white flight, encouraged by the blockbusting tactics of realtors. Moore points out that New Deal government programs offering mortgages greatly encouraged the redlining tactics of banks in black neighborhoods.
The author notes that racism is still quite vibrant in the Chicago housing market. She covers the demolition of public housing projects that began in earnest in the 90’s under the urban renewal fervor of Mayor Daley Jr. It appears that a very small numbers of public housing residents have been able to stay in the mixed housing developments which replaced their public housing. Moore gives the sense that in spite of the horrors of project life, there was still a sense of community among some residents. Many of these residents have been scattered throughout Chicago’s poor black neighborhoods with their rental vouchers, struggling to survive. On the other hand, other former public housing residents have been more successful in their post-project lives, according to the author.
Moore writes a great deal about the public schools in Chicago and goes into the history of the attempts to desegregate them. The Chicago city government has never had much interest in desegregating the public schools. Whites are now only 9 percent of Chicago Public School (CPS) students though they make up a significantly greater percentage of the city as a whole. Whites are greatly over-represented in selective enrollment schools while they are nearly non-existent in the city’s charter schools. Moore writes that in 2002, when a high achieving public elementary school in a white South Side neighborhood moved its location into a middle class black neighborhood in West Chatham, the white student population dropped by half and its black population rose. White parents taking their children out used excuses about fears of crime in the neighborhood. The school has retained its traditional high academic achievement. Moore writes that there are selective enrollment/testing-for-admission public schools on the South Side that are among the most highly rated in terms of academic achievement in Illinois. But they are nearly all black. White parents don’t want their kids going there.
Moore devotes an interesting chapter to the topic of Chicago and crime. Right wing Americans are fond of singling out Chicago as a uniquely bad case of out of control urban violence. The author shows that the murder rate in Chicago is bad but other urban areas of the US significantly exceed Chicago in terms of body count.
The author includes discussion of what South Side grassroots groups are trying to do to fight problems such as food deserts and youth violence. She offers possible solutions: for segregation, creating more magnet schools, redrawing attendance boundaries, working with suburban districts and universities; for housing discrimination and lack of affordable housing, strengthening federal government enforcement and reforming zoning regulations; a Marshall Plan for the cities that would seriously reduce the poverty and deprivation that breed crime on the South Side. She mentions the grassroots activism on the South Side against police violence and the activism that finally got a reparations settlement for the families and victims of the torture chamber that police Commander Jon Burge oversaw from the 70’s through the early 90’s.
Chapter 8 features an outline of Harold Washington’s career and the aftermath of his 1987 death, which has since left black Chicago political vibrancy in tatters. Black politics were unable to revitalize during the mayoralty of Daley Jr., who according to Moore, did little for black folk. She quotes several academics and activists who express such sentiments as that there is no common black political agenda in Chicago and blacks need to find common ground around one; that the more black people are elected to office, the less influence on politics black people seem to have; that black people need to focus on a candidate’s policy proposals rather than merely skin color. The most cogent of the quotes in this chapter comes from University of Chicago academic Michael Dawson, who mentions neoliberalism creating income inequality among black folk and thus hurting unity around a black political agenda because some black people get economic benefits off of it while it hurts many others. The author writes that “economic equality” (I think she means “economic inequality”) is spreading across all races around the nation. Service jobs have replaced manufacturing jobs in this era of de-industrialization.
Moore writes pretty well, though I think that if I were writing this book, I would cover a few different topics than the ones she chooses. For example, she briefly mentions that charter schools popped up in place of some schools that were infamously closed by Mayor Emmanuel in 2013. But subsequently she says no more about charter schools in South Side black communities. She does not indicate how the testing mania and other neoliberal reforms pushed by Republicans and Democrats (like Obama) have impacted the education of South Chicago blacks kids. Another education related subject mentioned occasionally but not explored upon in the book is the movement begun by Mayor Daley in 1995 to suspend many democratically elected local school councils in black and brown neighborhoods. Her focus on segregation in education seems excessively focused on the racial diversity of student bodies though the book more than once suggests that reducing segregation is more than just about putting black and white bodies near to each other in workplaces, schools, neighborhoods, etc. It is also about giving marginalized populations access to resources and opportunities previously enjoyed only by members of the dominant race. So how have areas like charters, testing and the dismantlement of local school councils empowered or hurt the educational outcomes of black students in south Chicago and thus affected their ability to interact with the dominant white society? Also, I wonder about the outcomes (e.g. class sizes) at the schools forced to receive the students from Emmanuel's closed schools. Related to the latter, the author profiles the principal of Mollison Elementary, one of the existing schools set up to absorb students from the closed schools. This principal, Kimberly Henderson, shares various education related thoughts with the author, including the notion that a good teacher can facilitate successful learning with any child, no matter what the child's background or what is going on in their home life, so long as the child regularly attends school. However, we don't learn anything about what happened in receiver schools like Mollison after the closures.
Another subject that I would like to have heard more on is related to the book's Michael Dawson quote about neoliberalism increasing the gap between the haves and the have nots in the black community but giving the black haves a stake in maintaining it. Who are exactly are these blacks who benefit from neoliberalism? The author does not say nor does she provide enlightenment from Dawson. Could Dawson's point extend to the political sphere where you have black politicians e.g. South Side congressman Bobby Rush showing a disproportionate concern for looking after the interests of corporate campaign contributors rather than their constituents? I would have liked to have seen a stronger link maintained in the book between neoliberal capitalism and the reinforcement of racial segregation.
Moore makes use of academic scholarship to support her arguments and these works are listed at the end in the end-notes and bibliography. She also makes use of her personal interviews with scholars and activists, and these are cited in the end-notes.
Moore does a great job of mixing autobiographical info with broader neighborhood data to really give you a feel of the city. Hearing about her struggles in Bronzeville was a bit heartbreaking. I haven't spent much time in the neighborhood and feel a bit guilty for neglecting it. I was heartened to hear about her reception in Bridgeport, I've experienced much the same in my time there. I don't drink but can vouch for Maria's.
All in all a must read for any Chicagoan from the north, west, or south sides. My only real criticism is that it really could have used more content on the Hispanic population of our side of town. Moore acknowledges this, so no stars off, but in mentioning the decline of black political power from the Washington administration this is a key point. That chapter was phenomenal in any case.
This review has meandered enough. Read the book.
I still get emotional when I think of my childhood and the simple things I enjoyed.
Pity, the song Ball of Confusion still rings true with me. "People movin' out, people movin' in, why? because of the color of their skin...., sickening. I miss Chicago, I miss the innocence, and a great pizza.