14th Street Clovers

Founded Founded in or near Near West Side
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Primary ethnicities African American
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Status Extinct

The story begins in the early 1940s when African Americans began to move into the “Jew Town” section of the Near West Side neighborhood in larger numbers. For many years this area was referred to as the “Jewish Ghetto” and was the site the famous Maxwell Street Market. When blacks arrived they were not welcomed by the Jewish community and the tensions developed quickly. The tensions were the worst at the intersection of Maxwell Street and Halsted Street and up to Roosevelt Road at the spot of the Maxwell Street market that Jews heavily regarded as their area. At some point in the early 1940s the tensions got so out of control that groups and black and white youths were fighting in the streets. This neighborhood was well known for having prominent Italian and Jewish gangs decades prior and now they were fighting with scores of black youths that were fighting for their rights to live in Jew Town.

As the conflicts between Jewish and black youths escalated in Jew Town the black youths formed two street gangs to battle the Jewish gangs. Forming these clubs was the only way to size up against the tough Jewish gangs and the black youths wanted to call upon all black youths in the area to join them in the fight, this was the prophecy. The name “Imperial Chaplain” was likely chosen because a Chaplain by definition is a type of prophet that is attached to a religious group. The Imperial Chaplains would serve as the prophets to spread the word to black youths moving into Jew Town to stand up and fight for their existence. The other black gang to take form was the 14th Street Clovers that formed at 14th and Halsted just south of the Maxwell Street market. At first the two gangs could work together to fight against a common cause, however, that didn’t last long before they began fighting each other as each group wanted to stand as one against the common enemy but neither group wanted to assimilate into the other.

The building of the Robert Brooks public housing projects brought many more blacks into the area and members of the Imperial Chaplains and 14th Street Clovers were the first gangs to take up residence in these buildings. Extensions were built onto the Jane Addams projects in 1943 that were built for blacks and this is when Clovers and Chaplains were moving in these buildings.

In the year 1948, members of the Imperial Chaplains and 14th Street Clovers moved to the North Lawndale neighborhood as many Jewish residents moved out of the area. North Lawndale was both welcoming and spiteful of blacks moving into this neighborhood and once again friction popped off between blacks and Jews. North Lawndale was ideal for black families as their was an abundance of rental properties, because blacks were often barred from purchasing property in this community. The Chaplains made 16th and Homan down the 16th and Trumbull as their main stronghold. The rivalries between Clovers and Chaplains would now carry over onto these streets.

In the year 1950, the Loomis Courts projects were constructed and Imperial Chaplains and Clovers moved into these buildings and took control.

As the Grace Abbott public housing projects opened in the Near West Side neighborhood in 1952, Chaplains and Clovers moved into these buildings, simultaneously, Chaplains and Clovers were also moving into the Jane Addams projects as those projects were now starting to allow blacks to move into the older section.  Both gangs were taking over the ABLA housing projects and were the first to run “The Village.”

In the year 1954, a group broke away from the Chaplains in Jew Town that took on the name “Egyptian Cobras.” The Cobras had their own idea of how to handle issues black youths faced in the neighborhood and the Cobras seemed to have a more violent and extreme approach.

By 1955, more gangs began breaking away from the Chaplains causing a major gang war on the streets of North Lawndale and Jew Town which prompted many more members of this mostly Jewish community to leave the neighborhood, the Chaplains still continued to grow despite losing members to other gangs, the newer members were Junior Chaplains. The Egyptian Cobras also colonized North Lawndale in the Filmore District at 14th and Kedvale.

In The mid 1950s, Chaplains began to spread around the west side heavily as they settled deeply into the Near West Side neighborhood. Chaplains also steam rolled into West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park and could even be found in the Cabrini Green high rise projects as they opened up in 1955, Clovers would also join them there.

In the year 1957, the Henry Horner public housing projects opened their doors for the first time and Imperial Chaplains made their way into these buldings as did their rivals the Egyptian Cobras and 14th Street Clovers. Clovers, Chaplains and Egyptian Cobras were the first to dominate Henry Horner projects.

The Clovers were known to be a rough and tough group, in the Chicago Tribune on March 15, 1957 it was stated that they were one of the toughest gangs in the city, the article also talked about how 6 of their members beat an elderly man and also 5 other youths.  It was in that same year that many Clovers were incarcerated during police Captain Thomas O’ Donnell’s crack down on North Lawndale gangs that led to the creation of the Vice Lords because many youths felt they were unjustly charged during the crackdowns, not to also mention the severe police brutality that happened during these crackdowns.  It was also during these crackdowns that the case of James Halsell came about who was a Clover that was severely beaten with a belt during interrogation in the Fillmore Police station until he had serious welts on his back in May of 1957; this led to an FBI and ACLU investigation.  These crackdowns were made possible by a reporter that went undercover as a Clover in 1957 and attended their meetings and reported they smoked marijuana and drank cheap wine and this somehow led to a crackdown on the gang.

In 1958, the Clovers suffered a severe fracturing as many members were breaking away into their own smaller gangs, this paved the way for the Vice Lords to step in and take over North Lawndale as the Clovers no longer were the biggest gang in that area.

Many Clovers flipped to Vice Lords once the Vice Lords hit the streets of North Lawndale in 1958 including Vice Lord spokesman Bobby Gore.  Clover territory was greatly taken over both violently and bloodlessly (by flipping of members to Vice Lords) by the Almighty Vice Lord machine. The year 1960 was the last year the Clovers existed, then the rest were completely absorbed into the Vice Lords.

Please send in 1940s, 1950s and 1960s pics!

Questions:

  1.  What exact year were the Clovers founded?
  2. Who was the founder and what happened to him?
  3. Who were the leaders throughout their existence and what years were they in power?
  4. What street corners did they run and what years did each corner pop up and what years did they lose those corners?