Chicago Gang History

South Deering

NameSouth Deering
Location95th Street on the north, 130th Street on the south, Calumet River to Burley Avenue on the east, South Stoney Island Avenue to Bishop Ford Expressway on the west
Settled1845
FounderN/A
Year annexed1889

 

This area was first discovered by European settlers in the year 1845 and after that there was not much settlement as the area just roads for travelers to pass through.  It was not until 1875 that this area would build up once Joseph H. Brown Iron and Steel Company and Calumet Canal and Dock Company built their factories here and soon immigrants of Irish, Welsh and English descent flocked here looking for work and settled near the factories in an area they called “Irondale.” 

Later in the 19th century Swedish and German immigrants moved to this neighborhood and annexation was achieved in the year 1889, making this area an official part of the city of Chicago.  In 1902 the area would blossom even more when International Harvester built a brand new factory here, Gold Medal Flour Company, Illinois Slag And Ballast Company and Federal Furnace Company all opened in South Deering, right after this the neighborhood was officially named “South Deering” as Croatian, Serbian, and Polish immigrants flocked to South Deering.  The term “Slag Valley” began to surface in reference to the many piles of steel waste in the area in between 95th Street to 103rd Street and Baltimore Avenue to Manistee Avenue. 

When the United States became involved in World War I there soon became many more job slots opened up, this is when the oldest wave of Mexican immigrants came to Chicago and some settled in South Deering. 

This neighborhood thrived very well in the 1920s decade and even the 1930s proved to be a decent decade despite the fact that the Great Depression era put the United States as a whole in economic despair.  Chicago as a whole was facing a housing crisis and also a poverty crisis in the 1930s decades and some families struggled to get by, this brought about the need for public housing that was put together by the Chicago Housing Authority in 1937.  In 1938 the CHA decided to put projects in the South Deering community called the Trumbull Park Homes that was to be located between 105th to 109th Streets and Bensley to Oglesby Avenues.  These projects were built for white only residents as African Americans did not live in South Deering in these days and Mexican immigrants were forced to leave the country because of repatriation. 

Starting in 1947 and continuing through 1949 Swift Properties Inc began constructing the Jeffery Manor houses that was meant for returning World War II veterans that came to work in the many factories.  The Jeffery Manor homes were built in between 95th Street to 103rd Street and between Torrance Avenue on the east and the railroad tracks on the west. 

South Deering preferred to remain a white community, African Americans were allowed to work in the factories but the neighborhood preferred they lived elsewhere but in 1948 restrictive covenants were deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme court and this allowed blacks to move into all-white neighborhoods despite objections.  It was not until 1953 that African Americans tried to settle in this community when CHA allowed a black family to move into the Trumbull projects by accident. 

Betty Howard went into the CHA office for an interview and CHA staff mistook her for a white woman because she was light skinned; now Betty and Donald Howard moved into the projects with their family in the summer of that year at 10630 Bensely Avenue (106th and Bensley).  In August of 1953 the white community in and around the projects threw rocks, shot fireworks at the family, called them names and even attacked them trying to force them to move out.  The police came to subdue angry whites and the police had to protect the Howards daily.  Residents also tried to petition again and again to move the Howards out but this failed, in fact, it started a massive debate that black families should have the right to move into these buildings.  The CHA also came down on the residents in the buildings that were attacking the Howards by sending out evictions so the violence would stop, after these evictions the CHA was able to move in 10 more black families to the projects in place of the white protestors.  The violence would continue all through 1954 and the Howard family was evicted by CHA because Betty Howard was not truthful about being unemployed when she filled out the application.  The director of CHA Elizabeth Wood was fired in 1954 because she fought to integrate black families into these projects. 

The projects and the neighborhood continued as a mostly white area as African Americans only made up less than 1% of the population of South Deering by 1960. 

By 1963 black families were fully allowed to live in the Trumbull Park projects; however, the projects would not yet became majority black yet.  The South Deering neighborhood heavily relied on employment in the factories especially Wisconsin Steel which employed 3,000 workers which was almost 20% of the neighborhood’s total population and in 1969 the plant started having some financial trouble then in 1977 the plant was sold to Envirodyne that ended up having no idea how to operate the plant causing more financial problems which led to the closing of the plant in March of 1980. 

The workers loved South Deering as it was a close-knit community where everyone knew each other because they worked together, now that would be all gone and families immediately left South Deering so fast that by the summer the neighborhood already started to change.  Once the workers moved out the values of their homes plummeted, this brought opportunities for poorer African American and Mexican families to take up residence in the neighborhood.  African Americans primarily settled in the Jeffrey Manor houses and in the Trumbull Park projects, while Mexicans settled more in Slag Valley and also in the projects. 

As soon as African Americans and Mexicans began arriving in large numbers in 1980, black and Latino street gangs poured into the neighborhood and immediately began engaging in vicious gang wars.  The Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords took over the Trumbull Park housing projects and also Jeffrey Manor.  Mexican youths in Trumbull Park started their own gangs like the “Spanish Vice Lords” and “King Cobras” that were actually branches of the greater Vice Lord nation and Spanish Cobra nation. 

In Slag Valley the area became populated by Latino gangs that migrated there like Latin Kings and Latin Counts.  Gang and drug violence soon became rampant in the neighborhood in the 1980s that was escalating quickly. 

The 1990s saw more violence and even more intense gang wars until South Deering was now known as one of the more violent and dangerous Chicago neighborhoods.  White flight would continue through the 1980s and 1990s as African Americans and Mexicans became the majority. 

By the year 2000 over 60% of the neighborhood was black while Mexicans made up over 30% the rest was white.  South Deering is still one of the harder neighborhoods in Chicago and has been known to have a higher murder rate.  This neighborhood still continues to struggle with high unemployment and poverty since 1980. The Trumbull Park projects were renovated in recent years and still are occupied.

South Deering is the birth place of the Spanish Vice Lords and King Cobras.

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