1. Discuss how “hypersegregation” took place in different neighborhoods across Chicago? Why was Hyde Park a rare island of integration? Discuss your own experiences with racial segregation. What other aspects of our lives are segregated today? (Thanks to Peter Billingsley for the questions)

2. Quote – What is something that sparked your interest, you didn’t understand, something that you identified with or one thing that summed up the section for you?

3. Question – What are you curious about after reading this section?

4. Classroom Connection–How might you connect something that you have read about to your students in the classroom?

Tags: Great, Migration, Other, Suns, Wamth, Wilkerson, book, chat, of

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My own life is and has been pretty segregated.  In the elementary  parochial school I attended in the southwest suburbs (La Grange/Western Springs), there were only a handful of black kids at the school and they were bused in from Chicago.  I can’t think of any black families in my community growing up.  For a couple of years we had one of the black kids live with us during the school year.  He and my younger brother were friends.  Playing on the basketball team required after school practices, which meant Hollis’s parents would have to drive out and pick him up.  That was not feasible, so for several nights each week Hollis stayed with us. Despite having this connection, I don’t recall our families socializing and I suspect my brother never stayed the night at Hollis’s house, but I will have to check with him.



There was one black family in my neighborhood outside of Tampa and I recall some neighbors being concerned when they moved in.  In Asheville there are no blacks or Hispanics in my neighborhood, few in the grocery store.


I’m on the PTO at my son’s public school in Asheville and we’ve had ongoing conversations about how to attract more minority parents to the meetings.    We alternate the meetings – one month we have a full blown PTO meeting held at the school were anyone can attend (so far this year one black parent attended one meeting) and the next month we have an executive meeting for PTO board members only.  Those meetings are held at the President’s house.  I ride my bike over and we (all white, mostly females)  sit on her nice porch and the wine drinkers have wine, the beer drinkers have beer  and we talk about the Achievement Gap and the test scores and fundraising and it’s all so nice and inconclusive……


On a couple of occasions I’ve found myself in the minority.  For two summers during college I worked in at Woodlawn Cemetery in Miami. Everyone but me was Black or Hispanic.  They called me the ‘go to school boy’ because I was in college.  I learned to play whist and tunk, which allowed me into the group to some degree.  I felt some degree of acceptance when Ernest agreed to let me be is partner in hand digging a grave, which was some kind of rite of passage there.  No one from work ever invited me to their house, nor did I invite them to mine. At the end of the day and the end of the summers, I stopped visiting this other world (manual labor, different races) and retreated to my world (college,white).


Other times in Miami I found myself as the only Anglo in a large group of South and Central Americans.  The language(s) around – Cuban Spanish, Columbian Spanish, Nicarguan Spanish, (not that I could detect the differences) – were unknown to me, the food unfamiliar, even the reason for the party – a title fight between some Hispanic boxers – was remote to me. I have a clear recollection of walking into a party and EVERYONE turning to look at me. Then again, maybe they were looking at my attractive Nicaraguan date – Rosa:-)


Working at a commercial printer in Miami, I saw that different Hispanic groups segregated themselves.  There was a large break room with picnic tables and the Columbians sat in one spot, the El Salvardorans in another, the Nicuarguans over there, the Cuban here.  In some ways not surprising, (any different from the white kids eating a same table and the black kids at another??) but I’ll confess to being surprised when I realized that.

Thanks for your honesty in this post Peter and for kicking off Part IV.

1. Hypersegregation means the extreme level of segregation in Chicago neighborhoods, where the majority of them are nearly all-white or all-black. The building of public housing and its availability limited to certain areas, which attracted many of the migrants from the South, seems to have fueled the phenomenon. It does not seem to have been a simple case of de facto segregation. Hyde Park became an exception in part due to a large urban renewal project, but it should be noted that racial segregation gave way to a more economic segregation there. The new housing was not as affordable.


The town I grew up in had a total of 6,000 people and, as far as I knew, one African-American family. Segregation based on things other than skin color, chiefly ancestry and religion, were predominant there. One mother banned me from playing with her daughter when she found out I went to the French Catholic Church, not the Polish one. That always struck me as strange, having been born in the United States, clearly growing up "American" and also having Irish, English, and Native American heritages, the latter point having no bearing on my worth as a friend as far as I could understand at eight years old. I prided myself as being more open-minded than the people in my town, but I was really clueless about other people, not just ethnically or racially, but even regionally, as I discovered in later years being sent to an urban private school and then moving to a Florida beach town.


When I think of segregation today, while other aspects are certainly alive and well, I am concerned mostly about economic segregation in terms of access to knowledge and medical care. When a family member is ill with something a clinic doctor or family doctor cannot recognize or understand, it's only those with the money and knowledge of how to push for access to specialists and who can travel to them and the stamina to keep pushing and seeking answers, which requires time and resources many simply don't have access to...those who do are the ones who get proper treatment and can get well. And I'm not thinking about national health care, just the sorry state of how it is regardless of laws. And it affects families from all racial, ethnic, religious, etc. etc. backgrounds.


2 and 3. What sparks my interest is how when people move to a new place, of course they're seeking a better life. But when things don't always go as planned--your children don't take advantage of opportunities, there's crime in your new neighborhood, etc.--you can look at it two ways. I really think Ida was healthiest in this regard. Yes, she wondered what life would have been like had she stayed and married the other guy, especially toward the end of her life, but she does not regret moving to Chicago. Some people become bitter and melancholy, second-guessing their major decisions. I wonder how many people had a hard time with that especially as the migration slowed down and the severity of racial tension and violence began to ease, and of course the fact of family and friends left behind. How many wondered, "should we go back?"


4. This is a great "is the grass always greener" type of discussion. Many teens I've taught could not wait to leave for some other place, and it doesn't seem to matter whether they lived in an urban or rural area, city with many opportunities or few, and so on. So many seemed to be eager to "get out of" wherever they were. The stories in this book show that just because you go somewhere else does not mean you will not have problems and new challenges to face.

Most of my life I have been one of a few Jewish kids and have always felt slightly segregated.  I can relate to the other postings in that regard.  Moving to FL, especially teaching in rural FL was REALLY eye opening for me because I grew up in a small Jewish community.  I went from being one of a few Jewish people that someone knew to the ONLY Jewish person people had met...that was quite an experience.

2. I agree with Suzeanne's point of interest.  It is easy to have a rosy perception of what life should be like vs. the reality of it.  It sort of reminds me of my father's expectations for how my son should be raised vs. what we want and what our community can provide or allow for us.  

3.I wonder how people in these communities like Detroit today look back and feel about the conditions of their communities today...with the downturn in American Industry that provided all these opportunities and the off shoring of jobs.

4. Understanding migration patterns and the reasons for them is an easy start with Sociology.  The economics of it and why large groups did what they had to do.

1. I grew up in a small town in Florida before integration.  Our schools were not integrated until I was in the 7th grade.  Interactions between blacks and whites were much like what is described by Robert in the book.   If you saw or read "The Help", that was pretty much how I remember things.  Viola, our full time maid, lived in what we called "colored town".  I visited her house sometimes with her, but no black families lived anywhere other than colored town.  At the movie theater, they entered only through the side of the building and climbed a fire escape staircase to watch from the balcony.  They did not go into the restrooms or the lobby ever.  I never saw a black person patronize a restaurant.   I always remember Martin Luther King's comment about the most segregated day of the week is Sunday.  I do think that is changing now, but sadly, I think that change is resulting in the decline of the black churches just as the black communities declined after integration allowed many black families to move out of "colored town".   In February, I went to South Carolina with a group of teachers for a Civil Rights Conference held at SC State University.  I didn't realize until I got there that SCState was historically a black college.   My small group of teachers (all white) turned out to be a distinct minority at the conference.  It reminded me of an experience I had about 12 years ago when my son was in high school.  He played high school football and his team made it to the play-off for the state championship.  Their last playoff game was in Panama City - 7 hours away.  The high school chartered a bus for parents and supporters to take to the game.  I signed up to ride the bus and when I got on the bus, I found I was the only white person there.  All the other white parents had driven their car to the game and only the black fans were on the bus. Not only that, as I made my way down the aisles of the bus, every time I saw an empty seat, the person there said the seat was saved.  I ended up in the very back of the bus.  Happily for me, I did make friends with people on the bus during the trip and the experience turned out to be positive but it certainly gave me pause.

2. "Robert experienced a by-product of integration that would affect nearly every black business and institution when the doors of segregation flung open - rejection by a black customer base for the wide-open new world.  When the latter (blacks) got the chance to get all that had been denied them, some sought out whatever they were convinced was superior - and thus white."  (p.265).

3.  This quote shows how hard it is to overcome the messages of superiority and inferiority from someone once it is taught.  I see this not just in race, but in gender.  Why do people choose to admire and want that which they are not?

Hypersegregation is ever present.  Just take a look in any school cafeteria.

I too grew up in a predominately white community, as many here have said.  It was mainly a community of Portuguese immigrants and their descendents.  If I had to describe it, it was a blue collared community for the most part but we all had our fleece vests and khaki pants--suburban in every way.  We were a hockey town not a football town, baseball not basketball.  Very white America.

Today we still have certain segregated institutions from civic leagues and churches to beauty salons and  certain sports leagues.

Living in Eustis, I know what it is like today--a far cry from NYC. I can only imagine the look on George's face when we arrived for the first time.  I read on p. 252 that there was a little settlement of African-Americans in Harlem from Eustis when George had arrived.  I would love to do some further research on this group and and their descendents today.  It seems like it would be a great little project for the local historical society and the high school history club to work jointly on.  Hmmm...sounds like a neat little project for me if I ever have any free time again. :)

1. I think my answer for the previous post may be as appropriate here.  Hyde Park was so rare b/c the Univ. of Chicago was there.  It had very appealing architecture and was very beloved by the white citizens.  Therefore, the only Black people that could move there had to be well-off.  This was virtually impossible for most Blacks.  

2.  "They had the highest hopes for their children, raised in a world free of the hardships they endured in Florida."

3. I am curious to read how the children of these people felt when they were growing up.

4. I would love to use these excerpts with the kids to show how valued they are by their parents.  That the love for your children crosses all socioeconomic, and racial lines.

Sure is a great message Angela, especially this Mother's Day weekend!  I hope that you too have a great one.

1. I was actually a bit taken aback at the segregation Wilkerson describes through Harvey Clark’s story.  The protesting and resistance from law enforcement the Clarks experienced was surprising to me. Growing up in a small rural Florida town, de facto segregation was the norm and the racial divisions in housing especially are quite pronounced still today.  I live in South Florida now, and segregation here is more based on the language you speak than anything else.  There are many stores and restaurants it is clear do not welcome English speakers.  Interesting how racism evolves.


2. Quote - I never knew that African American women often walked the streets of white neighborhoods searching for domestic work, to the point that it was assumed well into the second half of the 20th century that an African American women walking in a white neighborhood was willing to do domestic work. 


3. Question – I am curious about the bans on migrants that were reportedly in place in northern cities to exclude migrants from the south. 


4. Classroom Connection–This seems like an appropriate point to ask students to make connections to their modern communities – tracing the origins and remnants of racial segregation.  An oral history project that asks students to collect experiences of community members would really make these concepts real and personal. 


I grew up in a very white home town with little exposure to other cultures.  Hypersegregation in Chicago centered on all black or all white neighborhoods.  This is very present still today, while we have made some progress I believe people sometimes self-segregate they fell more comfortable of people within their own cultures, religions, and color.  I see it in school when the black students sit with black students, the white with white, and hispanic cultures further segregate by what country they are from. 


I rarely find myself in the minority even here in Orlando.  I live in a mixed area but really only have connected with the white neighbors on either side of me.  I believe this may be because of distance but still I am segregated from other races.


Jenn made a point about African American women walking the streets of white neighborhoods looking for work.  Nowadays, I beleive that they would be seen as "out of place" and profiled by the neighborhood.


I always wonder how Americans of different races really feel when they are in uncomfotable cultural surroundings.


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