Chicago Gang History

Auburn Gresham

NameAuburn-Gresham
LocationRailroad tracks north of 75th Street, 89th Street to Vincennes Avenue to 91st Street on the south, Halsted Street to Wallace Street to Stewart Avenue on the east, railroad tracks then along edge of Dan Ryan Woods to South Beverly Boulevard on the west
SettledCirca 1850
FounderN/A
Year annexed1889

 

This area was annexed into the Lake Township area in 1850 and around this time some dutch and German truck farmers settled in the area. 

In the year 1865 this area was annexed into the town of Lake but was a rural part of the town with scattered farmers; however, more German and Irish workers came here to work at the railroads and at the Union Stock Yards; however, it was still a rural area even by the time the area was annexed into Chicago in 1889. 

This area remained as a small rural community with scattered farms until the 1910s decade when the city put in public transportation, this caused a boom in the area with German, Swedish, Polish, Italian and French Chicagoans from Back of The Yards, Bridgeport and Englewood looking to escape their tough neighborhoods. 

Many houses and apartments were constructed in the 1920s as city workers like firemen, policemen, stockyard and construction workers came to live in this community.  The neighborhood did quite well during the harsh 1930s decade during the Great Depression era and continued to prosper as an ideal neighborhood all through the 1940s and 1950s decades. 

In the late 1950s construction began for building the Dan Ryan Expressway which displaced many African American residents around the city and many were taking up residence in the nearby communities.  The usual reaction in all-white communities was to panic and bail out of the neighborhood, bring about disinvestment or to inflict violence on the African Americans, the Auburn-Gresham community had a more positive approach to deal with this potential crisis, this was done by forbidding block busting, teach residents to not act violently against blacks and to also upkeep commercial and residential property so nothing falls into deterioration.  Most of the white community welcomed middle class African Americans in order to ease the transition. 

The first five or six years of African American migration to this neighborhood went well as the process ran smoothly especially thanks to the efforts of the Organization of Southwest Communities (OSC) that organized all this positive behavior. 

In the latter half of the 1960s crime drifted over from neighboring Englewood and Greater Grand Crossing.  The neighborhood was experiencing several petty crimes but also some more serious crimes like purse snatching, mugging and break-ins.  There were also issues with heavier amounts of traffic and noise in the community and lacking of parking, all these factors caused white flight in the latter 1960s as more African American families moved in.  The violence of the Martin Luther King protests of 1966 and also the violence in the African American communities after his assassination in 1968 scared more white residents worried their neighborhood would become the same way prompted more white flight. 

Property values soon decreased entering the 1970s decade.  By the year 1970 the neighborhood was just shy of 70% African American as white flight of the late 1960s was rapid.  The 1970s decade would see the departure of the rest of the white population as African Americans now settled in the western part of the neighborhood as well.  Black street gangs soon found their way to the streets of this neighborhood and by the 1980s the neighborhood fell into a state of poverty, gangs and drug violence.  The neighborhood was invaded by the Black P Stones, Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords

Auburn-Gresham did survive massive urban decay thanks to the easy transition of white to black in the 1960s and 1970s; however, gang violence became a major issue as the neighborhood has been consistently on the higher list of the most violent and dangerous neighborhoods in the city. 

In the 21st century there have been efforts to restore the neighborhood and bring about a renaissance which has had a positive impact on the community; however, the violence still continues making this neighborhood one of the harder and more dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago.

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