Gangs have likely existed in Chicago since the 1830s; however, the significant gang problems would not begin until after the Civil War, when the issue was no longer just a gang or two here and there stealing bread and it became several gangs living in a slum. After the Civil War is when Chicago first began to see gangs manifest into powerful organized crime, more specifically Italian and Irish organized crime. Organized crime got its roots from street gang life in Chicago back in the 19th century and, in turn, the gangs that formed after World War II learned to organize from the influence of organized crime. In this part of ChicagoGangHistory.com I will show you how the influence happened over time and how organized crime and 19th century gangs inspired our modern day gangs in Chicago.
The beginning – the Irish experience Back Of The Yards and Little Hell 1870s and 1880s
It was the year 1860 when 21 year old Michael Cassius McDonald decided to permanently settle in the city of Chicago among the many Irish immigrants and the criminal underworld that arose in the late 1850s in Chicago in the Goose Island area and the area known today as Cabrini Green in the Near North Side neighborhood. The area in these early days was known as “Little Hell” and was Chicago’s very first ghetto and bad neighborhood.
Throughout the decade of the 1850s, young Michael spent his life jumping from city to city on railroad cars as he hustled the many wealthy passengers in rigged card games and the sale of candy boxes for $5 apiece, when unsuspectingly the boxes were only half full. Mcdonald was a hustler and con artist but also a charmer.
A year after Mcdonald’s arrival to Chicago, he talked many men into signing up for the Union army during the Civil war, then getting the $300 signing bonus while Mcdonald took a percentage, then Mcdonald would help the men dodge their enlistment, then re-enlist under another name, bringing in another $300. Mcdonald looked like a hero because he brought several thousands of troops to fight in the war even though he went about it illegally. This got him his major notoriety in the city of Chicago and respect from politicians and other government officials and most of them were unaware of the illegal ways Mcdonald brought in those men; regardless, he roped many more men in the military than the military recruiters could.
Mcdonald hooked himself into the underground gambling and prostitution rackets and ran his own dens. Mcdonald managed to pay off politicians, police and ward bosses as he set up his own underworld and his own organized crime organization. By the early 1870s Mcdonald was untouchable and ran the entire Irish criminal underworld city wide and even exercised control over other criminal groups.
In another part of the story, It was Christmas day, 1865 on South Union Avenue in the unincorporated area of Lake Township which was located just a few blocks away from Chicago’s south side which is where the gates first opened up to the brand new Union Stock Yards meat packing plant. This was an exciting experience because new jobs would become plentiful for freshly arrived immigrants from the Lake Township area and the south side of Chicago.
The newly arrived immigrants were willing to take anything they could as far as labor was concerned even if it meant long, grueling hours in unbearable temperatures. The labor would become back breaking, done in sweltering hot temperatures rising well above 100 degrees in the slaughter plants and below zero frigid temperatures in the stock yards. Conditions were filthy and full of disease, as the stock yards dumped thousands of pounds of trash into unkempt landfills and into the Chicago River. The river and the landfills were stuffed with rotten, deteriorating animal refuse, carcasses, unused flesh pieces and other deteriorated morsels of industrial and human waste. The neighborhood stunk to high heaven and the south branch of the Chicago River became dubbed “Bubbly Creek,” regardless, scores of mostly Irish immigrants packed their way in to the land all around the stockyards of gloom, misery and agony. They built shantytowns and poorly constructed cheap buildings that housed several families that were in the employ of Chicago’s and possibly the countries’ finest meat packing plant.
As the 1870s rolled in and the crumbling decay of the many housing structures soon became apparent, scores of dirty faced young lads roamed the streets looking for opportunities for unsupervised loafs of bread and other foods resting on top of wooden street stands, or opportunities for pick pocket strikes of unsuspecting pedestrians. Names such as the “Dukies” and the “Shielders” were spoken from their Irish dialect tongues as they were asked what gang they were running with by high ranking ward bosses that handpicked young desperate lads to do their dirty work to sway elections in their favor or terrorize rival businesses. This began the relationship of Chicago’s top politicians and business men intertwined with Chicago’s political machine and the earliest Irish street gangs in the city of Chicago that mainly hailed from Little Hell or northern Lake Township near the squalled Union Stock Yards.
The Irish gangs would meet in the darkened streets of Lake Township and battle each other bloody in a big gang brawl that would sometimes involve weapons such as clubs, bottles and knives. The battles were fought for territory, bravado and for notice from the corrupt ward bosses. The ward bosses wanted the meanest of the Irish thugs so they could ensure the best dirty work could be done to enhance their personal businesses or bids for political power.
The Dukies and the Shielders were early examples of Irish gangs that formed in this area that became the most prominent of Irish gangs in the formerly known Lake Township area. These Irish thugs were coming up in one of Chicago’s first ghetto even though the area was not annexed into the City Of Chicago yet.
The ward bosses and corrupt politicians of Chicago were to ones that mentored the early street gangs to create organized crime empires and for the Irish it all started on the dirty streets of Lake Township, now known today as the Back Of The Yards section of the New City neighborhood on Chicago’s south west side.
By the 1880s, the youngest Irish gang affiliated thugs had grown up. If they did not steer toward a life of hard work in the Union Stock Yards, they became high powered, corrupt ward bosses themselves. As ward bosses, they revisited the old streets near the stock yards or in Little Hell as they looked for starry eyed, dirty faced young thugs willing to put a hurt locker on anyone for a measly thin dime and a loaf of bread. These newer ward bosses and dirty politicians that were ex-gang members were now part “Social Athletic Clubs” or “SACS” that carried names such as the Hamburg Club, Ragen’s Colts, and the Old Rose Athletic Club. This was the next level of being in an Irish criminal organization that had the guise of a legitimate club. They had police officers, judges, politicians intertwined within their membership. The influence of Irish gang life and Irish organizations spread into the Chicago neighborhood of Bridgeport, making Bridgeport the third gang infested neighborhood in Chicago’s history.
In the year 1889, Lake Township was annexed into the City Of Chicago which encompassed the entire area of Crawford Avenue (Pulaski Road) to State Street, 39th Street (Pershing Road) to 87th Street. Now the Union Stock Yards were officially a part of the City Of Chicago along with the pained streets of the Back Of The Yards along with the Irish gang infested neighborhood of Canaryville.
The second earliest organized gang element in Chicago was also annexed into the City Of Chicago and became part of Chicago’s crime problem. Indeed the politicians and police are tasked to keep the streets clean of thugs, crime and gang activity, yet the double life of the corrupt official sees himself in comradery with the very hooligans he is sworn to remove from the Chicago streets, thus, begins a never ending cycle of Chicago corruption for years to come. Most of these corrupt men answer to Michael “King Michael” Cassius Mcdonald because he is the kingpin of all vices and rackets.
The beginning – the Italian/Sicilian experience and Little Hell 1880s and 1890s
Beginning in the year 1853, Goose Island became the site of a big explosion of industrial factories building up on this small island shaped section of land that is surrounded by the Chicago River/North Branch Canal. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the scene of this area was soot filled smoky skies raining down pollution upon those that resided on the island or near the island. Goose Island and the neighborhood directly to the east bounded by La Salle Street on the east, the Chicago river on the west, Division Street on the north and Chicago Avenue on the south would all become known as “Little Hell,” named after the ashen stained skies that hung heavy above these dark, dirty streets lined with dilapidated apartment buildings housing multiple families in one unit a piece.
At first the Irish arrived in this hell hole of a land as the Irish mob was born out of them in the 1860s by mob boss Michael Cassious Mcdonald. Then came the Sicilian immigrants that had begun arrival in the year 1880. Upon arrival in Little Hell, the Sicilian families now would become in tuned with why this neighborhood had such a reputation.
The streets of Goose Island and the mainland just to the east were a site of dirty garbage filled streets, little to no street lighting, and gangs of dirty faced hooligans emerging from the alleyways and gangways set upon committing violence. The intersection of Crosby and Hobbie was the very reason for the nickname Little Hell as the large gas house radiated a flaming ball of light that lit the sky and covered the stars at night. The roaring of coals being dumped into the vast ovens gave out an echo of this industrial process that could be heard even east of Larabee Street. “Death Corner” lies just a few blocks away at the intersection of Oak Street and Milton Street (now known as Cleveland Street) where hundreds of murders happened over the course of time and even police are deathly afraid to go here as this corner is run by all criminal elements in Little Hell.
The Sicilian families must now join the destitute Irish families in this slum of vermin infested, trash laden and violent neighborhood. At night the families must pack in like sardines in overcrowded apartment buildings that were built anywhere between 10 years prior and up to close to 40 years prior. The buildings lacked maintenance, plumbing, running water, toilets and even floors for the basement units where families had to sleep with rats on cardboard floors. The cottages that lined the neighborhood were not much better as they lacked plumbing and other necessities as well.
As the Sicilian youth would grow up on these streets of Little Hell, many would soon become just like the young dirty faced Irish lads in the neighborhood and Back Of The Yards that would fight and steal for dimes and bread.
The difference would soon become apparent between the Irish gang members and the Sicilian gang members of Little Hell, as the Sicilians, remembered the old country when the “Mafia” first organized in the 1860s that consisted of former thieves that now offered their services to land owners for a fee in exchange for the removal of other thieves. The mafia had now grown into a successful and well known organization in Sicily by the 1890s and young Sicilian lads on the streets of Chicago in Little Hell were now willing to bring these ways to the new homeland.
The first mentors would be Chicago’s various corrupt ward bosses that handpicked young starry eyed Sicilian youths to do the same dirty business that these corrupt bosses bestowed upon the Irish lads of the Back Of The Yards and also in Little Hell. One such Sicilian lad that was chosen was Giacomo Colosimo that immigrated to Chicago from the province of Cosenza, Italy at the age of 17 in 1895.
Giacomo Colosimo began his career running with the gangs of thieves and hooligans in Little Hell as he worked a legit job shining shoes and selling newspapers as he now went by the name “Jim” in order to Americanize himself. Jim Colosimo soon became noticed by two ward bosses Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna and John “Bathhouse John” Coughlin who were known as the “Grey Wolves.” After Coughlin was made 1st Ward alderman in 1897, he teamed up with Hinky Dink to create a dynamic duo that protected all the rackets in the Loop and Near North Side neighborhoods. Prostitution, gambling, smuggling, extortion…you name it, the grey wolves ran it all.
It was now in the late 1890s when the grey wolves first discovered young Colosimo and gave him an offer he could not refuse as precinct captain in Little Hell, as he acted as the “bagman” for the wolves collecting all the money from the various gambling and prostitution dens scattered around the first ward. Colosimo did his work well and made anyone suffer that did not pay up, this gave him the new nickname “Big Jim.”
The Grey Wolves eventually became so pleased with Big Jim that they placed him in charge of his very own brothel. The money was now coming for Big Jim as he developed a following from young Sicilian thugs in Little Hell that were willing to work for Colosimo, making Big Jim the leader of his own crew. Big Jim now had an alternate nickname of “Diamond Jim” due to his fine tastes of expensive white Italian suits that had expensive diamond pins tacked on near the pocket. The rising kingpin also wore flashy diamond rings that sparkled in even in the dank, darkened streets of Little Hell. He dared to flaunt his riches in these mean streets but did not fear any murderous hooligans hiding in the shadows that could possibly take his expensive possessions, instead they feared him, thus, was the birth of a new Chicago kingpin and the beginning of the boss of all bosses.
The beginning – The African American experience and the early “Policy” racket 1890s
Since African Americans first arrived in Chicago in the 1840s, they were often scattered around the city living among whites or living in very small settlements with fellow blacks.
In the year 1890 there were about 15,000 African Americans in the city of Chicago, in that same year much of that population finally found a community where they could all come together located in the north east quadrant of the Grand Boulevard neighborhood on Chicago’s south side.** **The approximate area was bounded by Grand Blvd (Martin Luther King Dr) on the west, Cottage Grove Avenue on the east, 47st Street on the south and 39th (Pershing Street) on the north. This was the beginning of the “Black Metropolis” in an area of the city known as “Bronzeville.” Later in the decade the black community was also found in the Douglas neighborhood just north of the Grand Boulevard neighborhood.
As I have shown in the last chapter, the Sicilian thugs on the streets of Little Hell became influenced by the Irish organized crime, and also how young prospects like Big Jim Colosimo were influenced and mentored by corrupt ward bosses like the Grey Wolves. The same can be said for 26 year old John Johnson, an African American man that took up employ at a gambling house owned by Andy Scott on “Gamblers Row” on Clark Street somewhere between Monroe Street and Randolph Street. Johnson worked as hired muscle to deal with players that did not play by the rules or pay up. Johnson did his work well as he brutally enforced the house rules.
After 8 years of employ, Andy Scott went into a full business partnership with Johnson in 1890 as they opened a saloon/gambling den at 464 S. State Street in an area of the Loop known as “Whiskey Row” which was known for having some of the most dangerous elements of criminals in the city go to drink within these gloomy, unfriendly taverns along State Street near Van Buren Street.
The Saloon was a success as money began pouring in by the thousands as the saloon profited from poker, billiards, craps and of course “Policy.” Policy was the precursor to the lottery system that we know today. A person would choose a set of numbers and pay a small fee, and then if the number was drawn, they would win a cash prize. Mushmouth was the first black man to get his grip on an organized policy racket.
Johnson’s success brought him notice from corrupt politicians and ward bosses, especially first ward boss Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna. Kenna was one of the two “Grey Wolves” that was mentoring Big Jim Colosimo in 1897 as well, so as you can see, the early Irish gangsters were influencing the first black gangster and the first Italian gangster, all cut from the same cloth.
1900s decade – The rise of Sicilian organized crime – the continuation of the Italian/Sicilian experience
By 1902, Jim “Big Jim” “Diamond Jim” Colosimo was now pulling in thousands of dollars in profits from the brothel he was running for the Grey Wolves. Big Jim now had a new wife Victoria Moresco, a known Chicago Madam, and together the two of them would open their very own brothel. One thing led to another and during the 1900s decade, Colosimo would have his hands on over 200 brothels, collecting profits from all of them. Colosimo also got involved in the business of enticing young foreign women with ads for employment in the U.S. Once the young women would arrive they were kidnapped and forced into a life of prostitution.
In the 1900s decade a new money making scheme was going around in and around the neighborhood known as “The Black Hand.” Everyone in the area thought the Black Hand was an organized crime group that was sending letters to wealthy people demanding a large onetime payment in exchange for not inflicting violence. If the person that was sent the letter did not pay up, the wealthy person would be attacked violently or their house would be set on fire. Many wealthy individuals tried to resist the threats but they were soon met with violent reprise, then they would end up having to pay the money anyway and cough up more money to repair any damages they received from doctor bills or damage to their property.
By 1909, Big Jim’s flashy ways finally caught up to him when the Black Hand extorters noticed he had lots to take. The first letter Colosimo got, he knew they meant business so he immediately paid the extorters then thought he was free and clear. The extortion racket did not leave Colosimo alone like he hoped and more letters came in asking for more payments, and this is when Big Jim reached out to his wife’s nephew Johnny “The Fox” Torrio from New York City to come out to Chicago and help Colosimo deal with these Black Hand Extortionists in 1910. When Torrio arrived he found the 10 extortionists directly responsible and killed them all.
1900s decade – The African American policy racket
In the 1900s decade, John Mushmouth Johnson was now known as the first “Policy King” in Chicago as his saloon on State Street was pulling in thousands of dollars in profits. Mushmouth had established connections far and wide within all the gambling rackets and dirty saloons the city had to offer.
In the year 1906 Mushmouth along with Bill “Dice Man” Lewis and Tom Mcginnis opened the Frontenac Club which took up the entire second floor of a large gambling building that was also co-owned by Big Jim Colosimo. Thanks to a relationship with the grey wolves, Colosimo and Johnson were able to work together. Just as Johnson was peaking at success, he suddenly died in September of 1907 at the young age of 51 years old, perhaps from the stress of running a stressful gambling and policy racket that mainly catered to the wealthy white elite in Chicago’s downtown Loop neighborhood.
After the death of Johnson the Frontenac Club was raided by Chicago police and shut down and by 1909 all of black policy was shut down and Bill Lewis was out of the game.
1910s decade – Beginning of the new wave of the Irish mob
In 1907 Michael Cassius “King Mike” McDonald died after running the criminal underworld in Chicago since 1860. The usual Irish gangs continued on and only became stronger in the slums of the Back Of The Yards and Little Hell but one gang would soon gain the most notoriety, the “Market Street Gang” as they were employed by the Chicago Tribune.
The purpose of the hiring of these Irish thugs by the well-known Tribune was to inflict violence on any newsstand owners that refused to peddle the Tribune. The Chicago Tribune and the Herald Examiner erupted into a war known as the “Newspaper Wars” which led both agencies to dip into Chicago corruption by hiring these brutish thugs to violently convince customers to not go with the competition.
Eventually, Dion O’ Banion rose through the ranks to become the leader of the Market Street Gang that was actually an older organization than himself. O’ Banion was able to establish political connections which further helped the cause of the Market Street Gang and of course the Chicago Tribune that employed the Market Street Gang. The rival Herald Examiner’s Moses Annenberg took notice of the Market Street Gang in 1918 and offered them a much larger amount of money to do their bidding. Dion O’ Banion, Henry Earl J. “Hymie Weiss” Wojciechowski, Vincent “The Schemer” Drucci and George “Bugs” Moran were in charge of distribution of the Herald, and if you refused to stock your shelves with the Herald at your newsstand, you were beaten to a bloody pulp.
1910s decade – The beginning of the Chicago Outfit
Big Jim Colosimo had risen throughout the 1900s decade to become a big shot gangster on the streets of Little Hell as he flashed his diamonds and ventured from one brothel to another collecting all the dues owed to him.
By 1910 the success was being all too well known by the notorious Black Hand extortionist groups that targeted wealthy businesses men such as Colosimo whether they earned their profits legally or illegally. When Colosimo received that second letter from Black Hand extortionist leader James Cosmano demanding $50,000 a week or he would beat up Colosimo’s prostitutes and the customers in his various brothels, Colosimo knew the letters would not stop until he was ruined financially, this is when it was time to make a call, a call to New York City to reach out to the nephew of Colosimo’s wife Victoria Moresco, Johnny “The Fox” Torrio of Brooklyn New York.
Torrio was the leader of the notorious “Five Points Gang” of New York City that many famous Italian mafia figures of New York had the beginning of their criminal careers with. The call from Colosimo to 28 year old Torrio was for assistance in dealing with these Black Hand extortionists which was another group of Sicilian American gangsters.
Immediately upon Torrio’s arrival he began the disposal of at least 10 members of the Black Hand extortion group including Filippo Catalano on June 6, 1910, a leader of the group. The bodies continued to stack up as things heated up in this bloody gang war that spilled into 1911.
Torrio and Colosimo enlisted the help of the notorious and mysterious “Shotgun Man” that laid waste to several more Black Hand extortionists in Little Hell at Death corner and also the Back Of The Yards neighborhood. Shotgun man was never caught or identified despite the fact that many terrified witnesses saw the brutal executions in the middle of the street, everyone was too terrified they would be next.
Between January and March of 1911, 38 more Black Hand members lie dead at the hands of Colosimo and Torrio’s men. Even though Colosimo was showing the Black Hand that sending him letters meant death in high numbers, the boss of the Black Hand James “Sunny Jim” Cosmano still kept sending letters to Colosimo demanding $10,000 in January of 1912 or else he would torch Big Jim’s café known as “The Colosimo.” Johnny Torrio responded to this by personally hunting down Cosmano. Torrio chased Cosmano down on a bridge and shot him; however, Cosmano got away but never returned to do business anywhere near Colosimo.
The Black Hand backed off the “South Side gang” led by Colosimo and second in command Johnny Torrio by 1912. Now that this war died down with the removal of Cosmano, Colosimo and Torrio created the “Chicago Outfit” which would officially become part of “La Cosa Nostra,” the “Mafia” of Sicily. Colosimo was now larger than needing to work for Ward bosses, now he worked with them as an equal. As the 1910s progressed Colosimo and the Chicago Outfit became more respected and feared as they gained more notoriety than Irish organized crime.
On January 16, 1919 to United States government enacted the Volstead Act which was also known as the 18th amendment in the United States Constitution which prohibited the sale, manufacture, consumption and possession of intoxicating alcohol in the United States. It is hard for us to imagine a life without being able to drink alcohol legally but there was a time when the government foolishly outlawed alcohol and this was known as the “Prohibition Era.”
As soon as the Volstead Act was passed in January on 1919, Johnny Torrio immediately wanted to sink his teeth into alcohol smuggling and wanted to buy out distilleries that were closing. Torrio needed help to begin this new illegal alcohol business and that is when he reached out to Alphonse Gabriel “Al” Capone from Brooklyn New York and a member of the Five Points Gang. Al Capone now became Johnny Torrio’s right hand man in the sale of illegal alcohol as the two of them went on ventures buying out closing down distilleries for rock bottom prices.
1910s decade – the return of black policy
John Mushmouth Johnson is fully accredited as the first black policy king in Chicago; however, he was not the one that first introduced the policy racket to Chicago, that title is accredited to Sam “Policy” Young as he brought it to Chicago in 1885 alongside “King Foo” and Patsy King.
When Patsy King went into business with John Johnson in the 1890s this connected all three men into the black policy racket. Sam Young was given his very own policy wheel in the downtown Loop neighborhood (Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia, Lombardo, P. 71).
In the year 1915, Sam Young brought black policy back to Chicago but this time on the south side at 31st and State Street in the Douglas neighborhood. Young brought it back into popularity by using whatever area he could for the wheel whether it was in a vacant lot, in front of restaurants or even in front of a carnival.
Young was only able to run a small operation until 1918 when Virgil Williams, the owner of the Royal Gardens began playing the game regularly. Williams got so much into the game that he flaunted his winnings which attracted several more people to play especially housewives and before you knew it, policy wheels were popping up all over the south side and west side (Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia, Lombardo, P. 72).
1920s decade – The rise of the North Side Gang and Dion O’Banion, the rise of the south side Chicago Outfit and the Beer Wars
The Irish were the first criminals, gang bangers, mobsters and crooked politicians in Chicago. In the 1880s when the Sicilians arrived they learned from the Irish gangsters how to run brothels, gambling dens, extort money and even to kill.
By the 1920s the Sicilians were completely independent of Irish organized crime and were on the rise to becoming equals in power to the Irish especially once that fateful day arrived on January 17, 1920 when the Volstead Act was made official. Manufacturing, distribution, sale, possession and consumption of alcohol were now illegal in the United States. Remaining alcohol from distilleries and taverns was considered contraband and dumped into the sewers while others celebrated the day consuming excessive amounts of alcohol until one could no longer stand and talk normal. How was it that so many Chicagoans were able to get annihilated after midnight? It was because organized crime now was pouring the booze into the glass of the thirsty Chicagoan. On the north side the Irish would fill your glass while on the south side the Italians would fill your glass.
Right away in the year 1920, the money pouring in was in such high numbers that both of these organizations were willing to do anything to keep business going and expand it even if that meant killing someone higher up. Johnny Torrio and Al Capone were running the booze racket behind the back on Big Jim Colosimo because when they asked big Jim if they could run a booze racket, Colosimo objected saying he did not want to get involved in costly gang wars over it.
Torrio and Capone continued to sell alcohol despite what their boss said until Colosimo discovered that the profit numbers did not add up. There was mysterious income showing up on the ledger and when Colosimo confronted Al Capone about it, Al said he did not know where it came from. Colosimo told Capone that if he found he was lying he would have him and Torrio killed. Torrio then knew he had to do something about this because he did not want to get killed but also knew he could not withstand to throw away millions of dollars in profits.
Torrio decided it was time to remove Colosimo in order to keep the booze racket going. On May 11, 1920 it was alleged that Torrio ordered Frankie Yale, a professional mob assassin from Brooklyn, to carry out the murder of Colosimo. Colosimo was then told a delivery was coming to his restaurant but instead Frankie Yale greeted the big man with a bullet in the back of the head killing the boss instantly as he lie in a pool of blood on the floor of his own restaurant. Johnny Torrio would now take Colosimo’s place as the new boss of the South Side Gang while Al Capone took Torrio’s spot as the right hand man.
As soon as Johnny Torrio took over as the boss, he was now out in the open as the controller of the south side booze racket and now profits would soar into the millions much to the envy of other south side gangs and Dion O’Banion’s North Side Gang.
In the early 1920s guns were blazing all over the city as the bodies piled up. The South Side Gang and North Side gang shot it out with their smaller rivals as they took down one enemy after another in pools of blood as the profits stacked up higher and higher. Even though the north side was known as Irish territory and the south side was known to be Italian territory, they continued to step on each other’s toes and cross over the borders.
Not only did these gangs kill each other, they began eliminating their own if someone made a mistake in the mob. With lots of money comes greed which can lead to behavior that was not suitable for either mob. Members of both mobs would try things like making extra money on the side without approval, snitching, raising a hand against the wrong people and over spending dirty money and attracting law enforcement attention. The bad behaviors of some mob men resulted in several gangland style executions. These organizations needed to keep a tight group in order to keep the money flowing and any loose cannons needed to be removed.
In 1921, the gang wars between the north side and the south side took a toll on both sides and now a peace conference needed to be called to outline the boundaries for both gangs to prevent gang wars. The territories were now mapped out so each organization knew where to operate and where not to.
By 1923 the relationship between the Northside Gang and the Southside Gang became very rocky once Johnny Torrio opened up territory in the suburb of Cicero without telling O’Banion or giving him a cut in the profits and this angered O’Banion. Torrio offered O’Banion a cut in profits from various brothels but O’Banion morally objected to it. Another problem was the wars the North Side gang had going on with the Genna Family that now controlled the Sicilian booze racket in Little Hell.
The Gennas were not yet a part of the Outfit; however, O’Banion expected Torrio to take care of them but Torrio did not do anything about it. O’Banion retaliated for this treatment by trying to frame Al Capone and Johnny Torrio for the murder of John Duffy in February of 1924 but that failed. On May 19, 1924 O’ Banion successfully got back at Torrio by leading him into the phony sale of a brewery that was being targeted by the Chicago police. O’Banion claimed he was now afraid of the Genna Family and wanted to buy his way out of the game by selling the brewery for $500,000. When Torrio showed up with several south side mobsters the police rushed in and arrested them all. Word traveled that O’Banion got off easy and Torrio then knew he was tricked by the Irish and this meant war.
On November 8, 1924 Mike Merlo died of cancer who was in charge of making sure all Sicilian gangs operated according to mutually decided rules that traveled all the way back to Italy. Merlo turned down a request earlier that year from the Genna Family to kill O’Banion but now that Merlo was gone and Torrio was angry, the hit was fully sanctioned. For Mike Merlo’s funeral the Outfit ordered flowers from O’Banions flower shop on the north side at 736 N. State St, known as Schofield’s Flower Shop in the Near North Side neighborhood. This order was just an excuse for three south side gangsters to come visit the shop. Frankie Yale, John Scalise and Albert Anselmi walked into the store on November 10, 1924 and said they were there for the Merlo flowers. As the men shook O’Banion’s hand they shot him several times in the neck, chest and head, then Frankie Yale released his handshake from the dead man and let him fall into a pool of his own blood.
Now that O’Banion lay to waste, Hymie Weiss took over as the new boss of the North Side Gang and Weiss was hot on revenge for the murder of his boss and longtime friend. On January 24, 1925 all three childhood friends and leaders of the North Side Gang Hymie Weiss, Vincent Drucci and Bugs Moran gunned down Johnny Torrio in an onslaught of gunfire right out in front of Torrio’s home at 70th and Clyde in the South Shore neighborhood as his wife watched the butchering in horror. Torrio was shot 5 times but survived the attack. Torrio then decided it was time to step down leaving the empire to Al Capone.
Capone took the Chicago Outfit to a whole new level by expanding his empire and business contacts as far as Canada, paying off more public officials, taking further control of more gambling rackets and brothels and mowing down more and more rival gangs. Capone was known for fixing elections in order to stay in the back pockets of powerful political figures. This meant rigging elections, voter intimidation, and kidnapping and threatening election officials.
Capone also continued the gang wars against the North Side Gang and tried to have Hymie Weiss killed and this led to an assassination attempt on September 20, 1926 at the Hawthorne Hotel in Cicero from the North Side Gang. The north siders staged a fake shooting with blanks in the downstairs part of the hotel luring Al Capone to come to the window to check out the commotion. Al Capone fell for it and looked out the window, as soon as the assassins were ready to shoot into the windows, one of Capone’s men knew it was trick and dove on top of the boss and pulled him to the ground as the bullets pelted the windows shattering bits of broken glass all over the mobsters inside. Capone saw this war as serious and could be a problem for business so he called a truce with the North Siders but negotiations failed and Capone had enough of Hymie Weiss.
In October of 1926 Capone ordered the death of Hymie Weiss. The hit was orchestrated by Capone’s hitmen as they shot up Weiss and his associates from a building window across the street from Schoefield’s Flower Shop with a barrage of tommy gun fire in sniper fashion. The Polish American leader of the Irish North Side Gang now lie dead in front of the same flower shop where Dion O’Banion was killed just a little over a year earlier, now the North Side Gang would be left under the control of George Bugs Moran a French American with Vincent Drucci, an Italian American, as his right hand man.
In January of 1927, Drucci and Moran would get their revenge on Capone for killing Weiss by kidnapping and murdering the manager and friend of Al Capone of the Hawthorne Hotel that Capone owned. Shortly after this happened Vincent Drucci was shot to death by Chicago Police on April 4th in an unrelated incident between Drucci and a group of hardened police officers that did not like criminals and were not on Capone’s payroll.
Peace was not a possibility between Moran and Capone and they continued to battle each other throughout the rest of the 1920s. This led to the famous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre on February 14, 1929 where a group of Capone’s henchmen dressed as Chicago cops rounded the North Siders up and gunned down 7 of Moran’s top men in a hail of gunfire. Moran was one of the intended targets; however, he was not present for this “police” roundup because he did not feel well that day.
The roaring 1920s brought about the rise of the Italian Mafia and the weakening of the Irish Mafia in Chicago. Up until the 1930s the Irish mob was the ones heavily recognized in Chicago and when organized crime was mentioned, the everyday Chicagoans would think about the Irish mob but the 1920s would show that the Italian mob was the more dominant force.
The streets of Chicago were bloody in the 1920s as gangs of bootleggers roamed the streets with guns in hand blasting each other in the streets. Many youths from the ghettos of Little Hell, “The Patch” in West Town and the Near West Side formed gangs that were eager to prove themselves worthy of joining the Outfit one day. As they grew older, they evolved into young bootlegger gangs in their early 20s and were often paid by the Outfit to gun down rival crews of the Outfit, eventually they would earn their stripes from doing the Outfits’ bidding. Some entire bootlegging gangs would join the Outfit once they rose to enough power and stature such as the Genna Family of Little Hell.
1920s decade – The reconstruction of Black Policy
In the year 1923, Sicilian organized crime once again tied itself in with the black policy racket as they once did in the 1900s decade when John Johnson and Jim Colosimo worked side by side in the same gambling building. Now Julius Benvenuti, a wealthy businessman with ties to Al Capone and the Chicago Outfit fully invested and funded Bronzeville black policy and opened up the Springfield Interstate Policy Company. This was a great opening for Bronzeville because this racket hired over 200 Policy writers and bet collectors which meant more jobs for struggling African Americans in Bronzeville.
The African American population was growing ever since 1915 and not just along the Black Belt but also all over the Grand Boulevard neighborhood that had become majority African American by the 1920s. The neighborhoods of Douglas and Washington Park were also becoming majority African American in the 1920s and white flight was taking its toll on these neighborhoods because as the whites moved out they took their businesses with them that could have potentially employed thousands of African Americans leaving these communities destitute. With the rise of black Policy brought several jobs to the black community, even if those jobs were not for a legal entity (Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia, Lombardo, P. 73).
Sam Young went into business with funeral parlor owner and gambling racket kingpin Daniel Mckee Jackson. Jackson was highly recognized in the black community ever since he first arrived in Chicago in 1892 and opened a funeral parlor at 26th and State Street on the border of the Douglas and Near South Side neighborhoods with his father. Jackson got involved in the gambling rackets and the brothel business which, in turn, helped his legitimate funeral business to provide the best care and standards to his customers in Bronzeville when white owned funeral parlors gave substandard services to black families.
Jackson’s thriving illegal businesses also helped him to give discounts and financial help to impoverished black families that could not afford services. In 1919 Jackson furthered his connections by working with Mayor William Hale Thompson as he ran for re-election in 1919 which furthered Jackson’s political connections. Needless to say Sam Young reeled in a large business partner that very quickly wanted to monopolize Chicago Policy to fall under African American control.
Jackson was in business with the Outfit because he had control of several speakeasies that were supplied with Capone’s liquor. The Outfit was not mainly into the Policy wheels so Jackson was able to establish a stronger foothold on several policy wheels without mob interference and, in fact, Policy was in business with the Outfit through Julius Benvenuti.
By 1928, Jackson was said to be collecting profits from at least 20 wheels and they were required to pay Jackson $300 a week in additional costs just for being able to operate their wheel (Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia, Lombardo, P. 73). Sam Young revived Black Policy in 1915 and basically became the Policy King until 1923 when he left that job to Jackson. Jackson was a key player in the history of Policy as grew it into a large business until his death in 1929. Walter Kelly would then take over as the new Policy King.
1930s decade – The end of prohibition and the end of the North Side Gang, the takeover of the Outfit
The early 1930s brought more gang wars between Al Capone’s Chicago Outfit and his rivals including the North Side Gang ran by George Bugs Moran. Blood was spilled on both sides but by the 1930s the damage was felt much more on the side of the Irish and Moran was losing control of his mob; however, he kept battling on as long as there was illegal alcohol to sell.
Al Capone began to allow the power get to his head as he was winning the war against rival gangs and also law enforcement. He began taunting officials when he spoke to the press and gloating about how he ran Chicago. Capone was also putting so much Cocaine up his nose that he fried out his septum in his nose. Addicted to Cocaine and power led Capone to face his eventual downfall.
In October of 1931 Capone was brought up on several charges of tax evasion and contempt of court and by May of 1932 Capone was sent to Atlanta U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. Also taken down with him was Capone’s right hand man Frank Nitti, but Nitti was only given 6 months in prison and by April of 1932 Nitti was released to take over the temporary leadership role from Paul “The Waiter” Ricca.
Capone was running the Outfit from behind prison walls even though Atlanta was is 600 miles away from Chicago. Capone was sending orders and messages to Frank Nitti who was the temporary acting boss until Capone got out. In the meantime Capone was living it up in prison in a luxury prison cell and all the company he wanted. Word traveled to other prisoners about the unfair treatment and jealousy toward Capone started. Capone did not handle the jealousy well, in fact, he went overboard and became crazier than normal as his personality began to change. This reason was because of a medical condition known as neurosyphilis, which is when the venereal disease syphilis is untreated over a long period of time and spreads to the brain.
Eventually Capone’s preferential treatment rumors reached Attorney General Homer Cummings and Sanford Bates the head of the prisons bureau. These men decided to send Al Capone to the new Alcatraz prison that opened on August 11, 1934. Capone would be one of the first prisoners to arrive at Alcatraz on opening day, now Capone was truly cut off from his empire until he was paroled in 1939, by then the Syphilis became so advanced he could no longer run the Outfit, he later died in 1946.
In August of 1934, now that Capone was sent away to isolated Alcatraz prison near San Francisco, California, a new boss would need to step in to take full control of the Outfit. Paul Ricca and Tony “Joe Batters” Accardo were seen as too young. Frank Nitti was then chosen to be the new Outfit boss.
Prohibition was at last over in the United States thanks to the passing of the 21st amendment that overrode the 18th amendment. Now that alcohol was legal to manufacture, distribute, sell, possess and consume the Outfit would no longer partake in anything to do with the business of alcohol, except with minor moonshine distributions. The Outfit; however, would survive and continue to pull in major profits from various other rackets. One of the biggest new investments was forming labor unions which were a way of getting involved in legitimate business. The involvement in labor unions would eventually lead to controlling Hollywood movie unions.
The North Side Gang and Bugs Moran were finished as soon as the 21st amendment took effect. The North Side Gang was not rooted enough in other forms of business especially since the Outfit controlled most of it. Now that the North Side Gang was ruined, Moran fled from Chicago and became a smaller time criminal until he was arrested and imprisoned in a robbery heist scheme in 1946 in Dayton, Ohio, after doing time in prison Moran died in 1957.
1930s decade – the rise of the Black Policy racket
After the death of Policy King Dan Jackson in 1929, Walter Kelly took over as the new Policy King. He filled that role by not only taking over all the collections that Jackson left but also by opening his own office building on State Street called “Kelly and Washington Brokers” that was full of Policy numbers writers, slot machines and a Policy wheel that drew three times a day. Their busiest time for Policy draws was around lunch time which would attract so much traffic and business that police had to come and direct the traffic (Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia, Lombardo, P. 73).
The Black Belt was growing larger and extending further south on the south side while more neighborhoods around it were experiencing more white flight which caused the closing of several more businesses. Neighborhoods like Grand Boulevard, Douglas, Washington Park, the southern part of the Near South Side neighborhood had become well over 80% African American and were poverty stricken especially with the onset of the Great Depression; however, the black community was safe and not full of gangs, drugs and violence like white neighborhoods like Back Of The Yards and Little Hell had. The Policy gangsters kept the neighborhoods controlled, not only that they gave back to the community and would lend a helping hand to struggling black families. Walter Kelly himself donated several thousands of dollars to black families including donating over $15,000 every Christmas to needy families.
In the year 1933, the Black Policy racket created a hierarchy of those that would be known as “The Big 12” which was all of the Policy Kings in Chicago. The Big 12 consisted of: Walter Kelly, Ily Kelly, Julian Black, Leon Motts, Henry Young, Charlie Ferrill, Bill Driver, Jim Knight, Big Jim Martin, Mack Jones, George Jones and Edward “Big Ed” Jones. This was a further push to growing the empire, profits and workforce for Black Policy in Chicago.
More was to come as the Black Policy Racket got stronger even after the deaths of Sam “Policy” Young in 1937 and the murder of Walter Kelly in 1939.
The murder of Walter Kelly was the beginning of what was to become of the Black Policy racket at the hands of the Outfit. Walter Kelly was kidnapped by Cicero mobster “Cicero Steve” on January 6, 1939 and a $25,000 ransom was demanded, when it was not paid, the mobsters killed Kelly. The Outfit killed Kelly because he was extending his territory in Outfit controlled turf in Gary, Indiana, Hammond, Indiana, East Chicago, Indiana and the suburbs in Lake County Illinois. Walter Kelly was heavily grieved when he was killed as his funeral had a turnout of over 5,000 people (Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia, Lombardo, P. 74).
1940-1945 – The Outfit during World War II years
As the early 1940s unfolded, the Chicago Outfit continued in their shakedown schemes of Hollywood movie unions while they lived the high life visiting the Hollywood strip. Everything all caught up to the Outfit in 1943 when several charges were filed against the leadership of the Chicago Outfit. All accusations were pointed at Paul Ricca but Ricca said Nitti had a better record and should take the fall for this. Nitti at first objected because the one time he spent in prison in the early 1930s. Nitti had severe issues with the fact that he was stuck in a cell which was not god for this gangster that had severe claustrophobia.
Nitti decided he would rather die than face years dealing with his phobia head on. On March 1, 1943 Nitti got drunk and walked to a rail yard near his North Rverside, IL home. At the rail yard, Nitti pulled out his .32 caliber pistol and shot himself in the head twice as he lie dead near a chain link fence. Paul Ricca would now have no choice but to take the fall for the Hllywood shakedowns and he was given 10 years in prison. Paul Ricca then had Tony Accardo run the Outfit in Ricca’s absence.
1940-1945 – Black Policy World War II years and the peak of success
In the year 1940, African American migration started a new wave and this one would be the largest migration wave in Chicago history. Thousands of black Americans arrived mostly by train looking to settle to Chicago’s south side for the most part. More neighborhoods began to experience the phenomena known as “white flight” in the areas further south or west of Bronzeville, such as, Englewood, Greater Grand Crossing, Kenwood and Oakland (Bronzeville) neighborhoods.
The increase in the black population of course meant there was an even stronger need for jobs. For many years, the African American population in Bronzeville had found work at the many industrial jobs in the area as they worked alongside white workers that still lived in areas near Bronzeville and now that World War II had begun and the United States was soon to be involved, there was a stronger need for more workers than ever.
The World War II effort effectively pulled Chicagoans out of the Great Depression and especially helped the African American community. Before long the Chicago Housing Authority continued to build more public housing project buildings to cater to the newly arrived African American work force that was now employed with industries that manufactured supplies for the war effort.
In the Cabrini Green section of Little Hell several old dilapidated homes were ripped down in 1942 to make way for the CHA’s Francis Cabrini Green low rise buildings that would house African American, Puerto Rican and Italian Americans that were a part of Chicago’s lower income class.
Another mixed race project building went up in the Near West Side neighborhood known as the Robert Brooks Homes that were built between 1942 and 1943, that would house more African Americans on the west side.
The Lowden Homes were built in the all-white Roseland neighborhood around 91st and 95th Streets to house African American workers at the Pullman factory much to the dissatisfaction of the white community.
These were the best times in the earlier 1940s for Chicago’s African American population, jobs were plentiful, housing was more available and the projects were well maintained by the CHA. The Policy racket was also at its peak during the war years as the 12 Policy Kings built up a massive multi million dollar empire opening several businesses in the south side streets that kept several thousands of black Americans employed and able to provide for their families, and if not, the Policy Kings would contribute donations to the families that did not quite have enough to make it.
The system worked for the Policy Kings as they would provide jobs and wages to the people of Bronzeville, then the people of Bronzeville would put back a lot of that income back into the Policy King’s pockets by buying services that Policy King legit businesses offered, such as, a Policy owned grocery store. Employed members of the community also bought Policy slips that once again fed the great policy machine.
By the 1940s, Edward “Big Ed” Jones and his brothers Mack Jones and George Jones were larger than life Policy Kings. Big Ed Jones could be viewed as the boss of the Policy racket because he had the biggest bank accounts and the deepest pockets of any African American in Bronzeville, he could also snap his fingers and someone could be disposed of.
Ed Jones could be thought of as the black Al Capone because he was deep in with politicians, police, ward bosses and several other wealthy elites. Ed Jones even had influence from the White House that was called the “Black Cabinet.” If there was to be anything that the city wanted to do in Bronzeville, even if it was as small as putting in a stop sign, they had to get Ed Jones’ approval first.
Ed Jones first entered the Policy Racket back in 1921 when he was only 22 years old. Jones and his brothers owned a small taxi cab business in the suburb of Evanston until Jones met a gambler named Ezra Leake that told Jones all about Policy and how it worked, after that Jones was sold on the idea and began his racketing career.
By the early 1940s Ed Jones became “Chief Graft Collector” which is basically the title of the boss of the Policy Racket. This title was passed to him by Ily Kelly and Ily Kelly was given this title after his brother Walter Kelly who died in 1939, Dan Jackson proceeded Kelly before 1929.
Big Ed Jones was now in charge of 12 large Policy wheels on the south side alone and was charging $250 a week for protection to wheel owners and an additional $150 a month fee. Police officers were paid off to avoid Ed Jones’ wheels as they were given a list called “The Favored Few” along with cash bribes.
Ed Jones did not want any heat from law enforcement near his wheels in Bronzeville so he pushed all criminal groups and prostitution further south of Bronzeville (Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia, Lombardo, P. 74), this would end up leading to white flight in the Greater Grand Crossing and Woodlawn neighborhoods that were the most effected by the vice move. Big Ed Jones and the Big 12 met regularly at the Royal Circle that was owned by Ily Kelly at 51st and Michigan Ave in the Grand Boulevard neighborhood. This was a major gambling building and also the headquarters of the Policy Kings for their “Circle Of Friends” meetings.
Ed Jones also established ties to other black Policy and gambling rackets across the country in other cities that eventually formed into the “National Brotherhood Of Policy Kings.” With this formation came the ability for the Policy Kings to heavily import several firearms and become a well-protected mob. This stretch across the U.S. also allowed the Chicago Policy Kings to get involved in professional sports especially boxing as they heavily supported and sponsored the famous boxer Joe Louis.
Chicago black Policy was a major success as they employed a work force of at least well over 10,000 or more workers that were paid a salary to perform such duties as: commission writers, checkers, handbook writers, Bookkeepers, station operators, stampers and collectors. All employees had their bus fare fully paid for the get to and from work every day.
In 1939 Big Ed Jones was taken down for tax evasion and sentenced to spend 28 months in Terre Haute Federal Prison in Indiana. Ed Jones was put in the same cell as notorious Outfit member Sam Giancana who was doing time for illegally distributing whiskey in 1939. Both men had roughly the same sentence and were sharing a cell, not only that they were both heavily rooted in organized crime. The two men had a lot in common and talked about their many exploits and money making schemes, Jones fascinated Giancana with his stories of pulling in large profits from his Policy racket and how it was a $18,600,000 a year business which $350,000 of it a year went into the pockets of crooked government officials.
Giancana was a friendly face on the inside for Jones to confide in but when their sentences were done by 1942, Giancana was not so friendly anymore once he was released and told his bosses Paul Ricca and Tony Accardo all about the Policy racket and how he wanted to take it over. This plot would take 4 years to begin but Giancana was determined.
While Giancana was plotting his takeover, Ed Jones and 26 others were back on trial again in 1942 for many charges of basically being involved in an illegal racket. The charges were dismissed because government officials that were supposed to testify would not cooperate because Jones had them in his back pocket, not only that it was decided that removal of the black Policy Racket could potentially destroy the black community because the millions of dollars the Policy racket contributed to the well-being and employment of thousands of African Americans in Chicago. The government knew the shutting down of this illegal operation would cause more harm than good for Chicago. The government now stopped their investigations on black Policy for now Policy was safe from judicial indictment, but one other source that they were unaware of, had the power to take them down and was already plotting, Sam Giancana and the Chicago Outfit.
1945-1949 – Black Policy vs. the Chicago Outfit, the beginning of the end of black Policy in Chicago
In the year 1945, Sam Giancana was ready to put wheels in motion in his plan to take over the black Policy racket on the south side of Chicago. Giancana started off by threatening Policy members and Policy Kings including Theodore “Teddy” Roe, but Roe would not back down and told Giancana to basically go screw off.
On May 11, 1946 Giancana showed Roe and the rest of the Policy Kings he meant business when he and his henchmen kidnapped Ed Jones and held him for days with a ransom of $250,000 while they told Ed Jones it was in his best interest to relinquish his Policy Empire to the Outfit. Ed Jones gave in realizing there was no winning against the Outfit and instructed George Jones to go ahead and pay the negotiated down ransom of $100,000, and Ed Jones was given a buyout of $100,000 in cash from the Outfit after $100,000 of the $200,000 offer was deducted to pay for the ransom. Ed Jones then packed his bags and fled to Mexico buying a mansion in this foreign country. The new Policy King to take over would be Ted Roe as he openly defied the Outfit and continued to hold on to the majority of the racket even though the Outfit muscled in on a 40% cut of each wheel.
Ted Roe continued his battles against the Outfit, he simply would not back down and was said to be one of the toughest gangsters in Chicago history. He was determined to continue to let Policy be black owned and controlled on the south side especially since Roe was pulling in over $1,000,000 a year in profits.
The people in Bronzeville looked at Ted Roe as a hero especially since he did not fear mafia reprisal. The Outfit continued to kill off one Policy King after another as the later 1940s progressed but that still did not persuade Ted Roe to go out of business, he also turned down bribe after bribe the Outfit tried to make to get him to give it all up, even $250,000 would not get Roe to back down, even a threat against Roe’s family and home at 5239 Michigan Avenue (52nd and Michigan in Washington Park neighborhood) would not get Roe to fold. Giancana knew Roe was serious business and could only be removed by killing him.
1945-1949, the Latino migration in Chicago
Chicago first experienced a wave of Latino migration in 1917 when Mexican people immigrated to Chicago to find many vacant jobs as a result of the First World War. The Mexican people settled in the Back Of The Yards community among the slums of the Irish that lived there. The Mexicans also settled in the South Deering and South Chicago neighborhoods in a small settlement, but their biggest settlement was in the Near West Side neighborhood in the University Village/Little Italysection or the West Loop section.
In the late 1910s and the 1920s no one seemed to bat an eyelash about the arrival of Mexican people because they simply worked and occupied the lowest forms of living in the neighborhoods they would dwell in. They took jobs white people did not want and lived in shabby dilapidated apartments that white people had not lived in for years, this kept Mexicans out of the spotlight from discrimination.
When the Great Depression era first started on October 29, 1929, white Chicagoan feelings about Mexican people changed due to the fact that jobs were becoming scarce and those dilapidated homes sure looked good compared to sleeping in alleyways and in shantytowns. The government agreed with the average white man and began mass deportations of migrant Mexican workers in 1930, even if they had families and lived in Chicago for years.
The deportations were delivered with no just cause, the color of your skin and citizen status was all that was needed, and speaking of citizenship, that was no longer being offered for Mexican people as of 1930. This process of deportation was known as “repatriation,” which involved no due process just immediate removal. It was felt that freeing up jobs and living spaces for naturalized white Americans was more important than the rights of Mexican people because of the panic the new recession had brought about, this process would continue until 1936.
Very few Mexican people were able to stay in Chicago in the 1930s and more immigration opportunities would not come back for Mexican migrants until 1942 with the onset of World War II and the need for workers to help with the war industry. The U.S. government and the Mexican government struck a deal for over 15,000 workers known as “braceros” to receive temporary work visas during the war years. The Mexicans that had arrived before the war became educated and created labor unions to help immigrants not face the same discrimination and deportation they had faced before the war. Once again Mexican people were settling the most in the Near West Side neighborhood. After the war ended many of the Mexican people remained in Chicago and made a life for themselves.
The first Puerto Rican migrants arrived in Chicago in the later 1930s after repatriation ended in 1936. The Puerto Rican migrants were in a very small number as they settled in the same area as the Mexican people in the Near West Side in University Village/Little Italy and the West Loop. Puerto Ricans ended up facing the same discrimination as the braceros during WWII and Puerto Ricans began arriving in higher numbers in 1947 to the Near West Side neighborhood to create a settlement known as “La Madison.”
1950s decade, the end of black Policy, Chicago Outfit takeover of Bronzeville
For many years black organized crime worked hand and hand with the Chicago Outfit going back to the days of John Mushmouth Johnson as he worked side by side with Big Jim Colosimo as both were mentored and employed by the Irish Grey Wolves. In the 1920s Al Capone made a deal with Senators Sam Etleson and Adolph Marks to stay out of the black Policy in exchange for them not intervening on Capone’s booze racket because the black community relied on the Policy racket to sustain, it was an agreement that held for to decades but that would now come to an end. The other reason for Capone staying out of it was the fact that he felt sympathy for blacks because they were discriminated against just like early Italian immigrants. Frank Nitti would uphold Capone’s wishes until his death in 1943.
When prohibition came to a grinding halt in the 1930s, the Outfit needed to look for as many ways to make millions as they could that could compare to the profits of the booze racket. Sam Giancana’s conquest of the black Policy racket was a step toward increasing the Outfit’s profits and getting Giancana further recognized as a good earner. As the early 1950s came about Giancana would begin closing in on Teddy Roe.
By 1950, the war between the Outfit and Teddy Roe was beginning to cost many lives on both sides but especially for Policy. Roe turned down one offer after another the Outfit tried to propose as he despised the mafia and thought of them as sneaky, untrustworthy and racist.
Roe hated Giancana and wanted to kill him as badly as Giancana wanted to kill him. In 1951, Roe escaped an assassination attempt from the Outfit on June 19, 1951 that resulted in Roe shooting Lenny “Fat Lenny” Caifano in the head blowing his brains out all over the street, and then Roe took off running and got away. Ted Roe’s days were up on August 4, 1952 when Outfit assassins waited down the block from Teddy Roe’s home and shot him 3 times very quickly killing him instantly, but Roe no longer cared because he was recently diagnosed with advanced stomach cancer.
Immediately after Roe’s death 100% of the black Policy racket was handed over to the Chicago Outfit which meant no more Policy King owned business as they all closed down and several African Americans were laid off.
Policy Kings since the 1910s decade would donate thousands of dollars to the black people in the black belt all through Bronzeville, they would also make sure their people were clothed and fed. All these donations came to a screeching halt once Teddy Roe was gunned down. Policy Kings also made sure the Bronzeville area and Washington Park were safe and free of any wild bands of hooligans that might terrorize the neighborhood. Young black youths feared the Policy Kings and did not dare create out of control street gangs that were geared toward destroying the community. Once the Policy Kings were all gone there was no filter on violence or street gangs and this gave rise to more violent gangs of black youths that prowled the streets of Bronzeville and other surrounding black communities by the mid-1950s.
The Outfit continued to take advantage of the black community as they began introducing groups of impoverished young black males to the sale of drugs such as Cocaine and Heroin. The Outfit has always been forbidden from selling drugs; however, Outfit members always found a way to distribute the drugs without the hierarchy finding out. Sometimes when higher ups found out they simply demanded a cut of the profits and looked the other way, this was what happened in the black community in the 1950s after the death of Ted Roe and black control of the policy racket.
Legend has it that young adult black males were guided to a building by Outfit members and shown a closet full of drugs and proposed to sell it all, and from there the drug distribution began in the black community in high volumes.
Former policy members on down to gangs of young black adults were selling the drugs provided by the Outfit. Soon crime went up higher than ever as people of the black community became heavily addicted to drugs which led to more crimes to get the drugs to support the habits such as: prostitution, robbery, theft and various violent crimes.
In the 1950s only adult black males sold the drugs and used the drugs, the community protected women and children in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s but even with only black adult males being involved in the drug game, the drugs still began to have negative consequences on the black community.
The end of black controlled Policy and racism towards African Americans was felt on the west side of Chicago too. In the year 1948 the Supreme Court ruled restrictive covenants unconstitutional that had always allowed entire communities to make rules on what race or ethnicity of people were allowed to live in their neighborhood. The covenants were especially harsh on black Americans as they were the main racial group that was excluded from the vast majority of Chicago’s communities which posed an extreme problem for the growing black population in the 1940s moving in from the southern United States.
The first previously restricted neighborhood that blacks would colonize was the North Lawndale neighborhood on Chicago’s west side that housed mainly Jewish residents. In 1948 North Lawndale immediately began to see a spurt of new black residents in their community that mainly migrated from the south side of the city and others from the south. The community did not take kindly to the arrival of the new black residents and racism began.
The discrimination and racism felt led to the creation of the first prominent black street gang in Chicago known as the “Egyptian Cobras.” A little while later another black gang started called the “Imperial Champlains.” These gangs started off as nothing more than small groups of very young kids that were 13 years old and younger that threw mud and rocks at each other but after the end of the black Policy racket they soon sunk into a life of violent crime especially starting in the spring of 1953 when drug addicts and dealers started wondering into the neighborhood committing a series of crimes.
As the 1950s progressed, the black street gangs in North Lawndale became higher in number and increasingly violent. Gangs like Egyptian Cobras and Imperial Champlains felt they owned these streets and ran with the largest numbers. This influence of having a big street gang led to the creation of the “Vice Lords” in the later 1950s which consisted mostly of former members of the Imperial Champlains. By 1959 the Vice lords were found in every black community on the west side such as North Lawndale, Near West Side, East and West Garfield Park and the various housing projects on the west side that were being built or already built.
In 1959 the Vice Lord influence spread to the south side in the Woodlawn neighborhood as cousins of the founders of Vice Lords, Jeff Fort and Eugene Hairston started their own gangs that would eventually merge together in the early 1960s to become the “Black Stone Rangers.”
1950s decade, increased Latino migration and the beginning of Latino gangs
In the early 1950s, Puerto Rican migration spread further west along the La Madison settlement as Puerto Ricans moved into the East Garfield Park neighborhood. This is a Puerto Rican enclave that is not talked about very much in history because it was small but still significant, nevertheless. This settlement would also spread into the northern part of the North Lawndale neighborhood bringing Chicago gangs like the “Spanish Counts” in the Filmore District.
Puerto Ricans did not add a major contribution to gang activity in this area; they mainly ran with gangs in the Near West Side neighborhood. Italians of Little Italy were upset with Mexicans and Puerto Ricans were moving in that were not U.S. born and were looking to change the culture of the neighborhood by speaking their own language and opening Latino businesses. Italian gangs have always been in the Near West Side neighborhood ever since they first migrated there in the 1920s; however, these newer gangs were not as much Chicago Outfit farm gangs like the notorious “42 Gang” that important mob figures like Sam Giancana came from. These were young greasers that wanted foreign born immigrants out and this resulted in a gang war between greaser gang bangers and immigrant gang bangers.
The early 1950s saw the beginning of Mexican gangs in the Near West Side neighborhood such as the Latin Counts and Morgan Deuces. These gangs slugged it out with the hostile Italian greasers until many Near West residents got a notice to vacate their homes due to three major construction projects in the neighborhood that would begin as early as 1958. The first project to begin was the buildup of the Kennedy Expressway that was to cut right through the neighborhood near Congress Parkway. This project immediately displaced several Mexican and Puerto Rican people from their homes. The construction would continue on until the early 1960s as more and more Latino families had to leave their homes as they were about to be leveled by construction.
The displaced Puerto Rican families found an enclave in the Lincoln Park neighborhood near the Lathrop housing projects in the north west side of the neighborhood. Some Puerto Rican families even moved into the all-white Lathrop projects in this north side neighborhood.
The Puerto Ricans were completely surrounded by hostile whites that did not want them there and strongly encouraged them to leave by any means necessary, this brought about the founding of the “Young Lords” street gang in 1959 that was geared at protecting the Puerto Rican community in Lincoln Park and they fought viciously to protect it.
The displaced Mexican people arrived in the Pilsen neighborhood and set up right around 18th Street. This neighborhood was upset with the arrival of Mexican immigrants that often did not speak English and also opened up Mexican stores along 18th Street. The Mexican arrivals brought gangs with them that had formed in the old neighborhood in the Near West Side neighborhood like Latin Counts, Ambrose and Morgan Deuces. Now these gangs were attempting to rule 18th Street and soon Pilsen was the sight of major gang brawls, which fueled more rapid white flight from the neighborhood.
1950s decade, the whites’ reaction to migration patterns and the creation of the “Greaser”
In the early 1950s Paul Ricca began to give more power to Tony Accardo as he allowed Accardo to run more of the components of the Outfit. After the death of Ted Roe, the Outfit started the black community off in the drug trade. The Outfit supplied small time dealers in the community or more often dealers that traveled in and out of the black community in Bronzeville.
The drugs and criminal element created by the drug trade would eventually make itself over to the west side streets into neighborhoods like North Lawndale, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park and the Near West Side neighborhood. The Near West Side soon became a crazier neighborhood than ever, especially now that the notorious 42 Gang was not operating there as much anymore.
All the craziness was right over the Kinzie Street railroad tracks that divided the Near West Side neighborhood from the West Town neighborhood. The southern part of West Town was an Italian neighborhood ever since at least the 1900s decade when the Black Hand gangsters moved in there.
All along the southern part of West Town the Outfit was on guard watching possible invasions from black gangs over those tracks. From Smith Park (The Patch) to the Kennedy Expressway, the mob was on alert. In 1952, the mob, more specifically the Grand Avenue Crew, left that job to a group of teenagers that formed their own gang called the “C-Notes” that operated at Ohio and Leavitt. This group of teenage greasers was created to protect the neighborhood against outside invaders and over time if they proved themselves as they got older they could possibly join the Outfit. This was the predecessor Outfit farm gang from the 42 Gang. The Gaylords were another white greaser club that started in about the same year in the same neighborhood but they were not a mob farm gang but worked to protect the neighborhood as well from invaders and still had family members that had ties to the Outfit.
Another area on high alert was the Humboldt Park (West Humboldt Park) neighborhood that also bordered the Near West Side and Garfield Park neighborhoods. The goal here again was to patrol the streets and keep blacks out of the neighborhood. This gave birth to the “Simon City Gang” and the “Royals” from Drake and Wabansia (Simons Park). These greaser clubs were Italian just like the C-Notes and Gaylords and once again they did not want blacks to cross over Kinzie Street. They also had a bigger goal of fighting off possible Puerto Rican invaders from East Garfield Park and the Near West Side as well.
For many years the Near West Side neighborhood had been a cultural melting pot as it still is today. African Americans had lived in this neighborhood since the 1930s in higher volumes. Mexicans first arrived during the First World War, and Italians arrived in the 1920s. The neighborhood was a mix of Latinos, Blacks, Italians and Greeks by the 1950s decade. The big objection that the whites had in this neighborhood was the arrival of foreign born Puerto Ricans and Mexicans that were looking to change the culture as opposed to assimilating into it like Latinos did before the Second World War. I will clarify something right now, it was not always just about skin color, it was all about if the culture that followed that skin color was geared at taking a good part of these white neighborhoods.
One of the most notorious Italian Greaser gangs in the Near West Side neighborhood in the 1950s was the “Taylor Street Dukes” that had territory all along Taylor Street and was made up of mostly Italian youths. The misconception of the Dukes in later years is that they were a bigoted Italian gang that bashed on gangs of other races, which is only partially true. The Dukes actually had quite a few Mexican members as was described in a Chicago tribune article titled “Dukes No Longer Have Their Dukes Up, Why,” from October 5, 1958. This is the same Dukes because the article talks about all their activity on Taylor Street and the boys were hanging out at the Jane Addams Boys Club on Taylor Street. This proves the opposition was not solely based on skin color but only when the community feels threatened that their neighborhood will change culturally. This is also the reason why Italian gangs in Little Italy battled the black gangs from the projects because gangs like Egyptian Cobras, Imperial Champlains and later the Vice Lords wanted to conquer all, and were clubs only for blacks.
The 1950s was a decade for whites to clash very heavily with blacks, mainly on the south side of Chicago. The black community was expanding in the 50s as they were moving into the Italian and Polish neighborhood of Englewood. There was also migration spreading into the South Shore and Woodlawn neighborhoods. Several white greaser gangs formed in these neighborhoods geared toward fighting off the blacks that were taking over their neighborhood. The people in these neighborhoods did not take into account that the older black neighborhoods in Bronzeville were becoming too full and housing over there was often too dilapidated. The goal of many black families was to get into the housing projects that were being built in the black communities; however, there was limited space. The projects were often brand new and well maintained back in the 1950s making them ideal for the impoverished black family struggling to pay bills.
Black migration also began spreading into the East Garfield Park neighborhood and in the West Garfield Park neighborhood in the later 1950s. North Lawndale became majority black by 1955 as the Jewish population began moving out in higher volumes due to the drug related crime wave caused mostly by transient criminals. White residents fought and petitioned to keep massive waves of blacks from moving in but the petitions were not successful especially since these communities were not being updated and falling apart. Property values were lower than ever and investment in these communities was not strong. This led to renovations and urban planning to be off the ballet. The best thing the white family could do if they did not want to live among the blacks was to move out and allow more black families to move in. White Greaser gangs were not successful in deterring the black migration into their neighborhoods and soon had to pack their bags by the end of the decade.
In Chicago the term “Block Busting” first surfaced in the 1950s that described a shady real estate practice that actually took advantage of racism and cultural fears. In definition, block busting is when a real estate agent hires “agents provocateurs,” which were impoverished African Americans that wanted to make a few bucks. After hiring the agents provocateurs, the real estate agent would go to the door step of a white family and persuade the family to sell their home at a rock bottom rate. The agent would have the family look out the window and see anything from a black woman pushing a stroller to a group of black youths fighting in the streets and making the white family terrified. The family had no idea they were being hustled by the real estate agent and they had no idea the rowdy blacks outside their window were hired agents provocateurs. The white family would become terrified and ask the agent how they could get out the soonest possible; the agent then said they can get them out fast as long as they were willing to sell their home for a certain amount to the real estate company. The family would be in such a state of panic they would agree to it real fast not giving themselves enough time to do any research. The agent would then help the family get into a new home outside of the city in the suburbs, sticking the family with a mortgage and the agent would profit big while the families lost equity in their homes. The other part of the process was even more unethical and immoral as the agent would sell that same home to a black family that was desperate to escape from the poverty and crumbling conditions of Bronzeville, and the family was willing to pay a higher price to get the house. Little did the family know they were making a deal with the devil and soon the whole value of the community would crumble within a few years to a decade and the local economy would collapse. They also did not know they were a victim of block busting and that their home was purchased at a rock bottom rate and the agent was laughing his way to the bank after charging the black family up to 10 times the amount paid. The family also did not know, within a few years the new community that they were now living in would become another ghetto, the same type of life they were desperately trying to escape from.
The Greaser trend was indeed given life in the 1950s as early as the year 1950. The greasers consisted of kids from blue collar homes that dressed in jeans that were cuffed at the bottom, plain white short sleeve undershirts with a pack of cigarettes rolled into the sleeve, black leather biker jackets, slicked back hair with a cigarette in the ear. The greaser look was cool and slick and a total bad boy look. Girls and other people found it to be a dangerous yet a cool look that girls found to be sexy.
World War II was a devastating war and caused many of men to develop a rebel attitude. This led to the rise of the biker gang culture as the Outlaws Motorcycle Club began engaging in criminal activity and this was the time when the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club was created as well that became a criminal organization. Men were traumatized by the war and instead of drinking themselves silly and into an early grave like World War I veterans did, many got on a bike and rode freely and did not want to deal with laws and restrictions, because they had no laws and restrictions in war. The youth in these same blue collar communities fell in love with the biker culture and began to mock some of it themselves with the greased hair and biker jackets. Greasers also wanted that dangerous image the bikers had and many of them even rode motorcycles. This was glorified in Hollywood as well when such films came out as “The Wild One” or “Rebel Without A Cause.” Greaser culture spread all over the United States in big cities and small towns. There was a romantic attachment society had with these tragic young men that did not care about authority.
In Chicago greasers were often extremely violent as now street gangs were blamed for murders in the newspaper. Chicago police were shocked that little gangs of 10-30 greaser thugs were capable of shooting, stabbing and robbing people and also operating drug rings. These were clearly not the same gangs that many older Chicagoans once knew. Organized crime was always in the newspaper as the villains of Chicago’s streets, now it was the greasers and the black gangs that were causing hell.
The black gangs of the west side streets were the ones reported in the newspaper, not so much the south side back in the 50s, but Greaser violence was reported everywhere in the city. The toughest Greasers were always the Greasers that lived near black ghettos or in transforming neighborhoods like the Greasers of Englewood, West Englewood or the Back Of The Yards.
The Back Of The Yards became a better neighborhood in the 1940s after being a rotting cesspool from the 1860s to 1940. Just as things were looking up, a greaser invasion began with some of the meanest and toughest Greasers the city would ever see as they went as far as committing murder. Greasers had to be tough near black ghettos, that is how such gangs as the “Italian Sharks” got by in the Cabrini Green area. The Sharks were fighting to keep the Italian way of life in this area formerly known as Little Hell, because they saw more Italians leaving the projects and blacks were moving in. By the later 1950s when the project extensions were built, a larger chunk of the Italian community was razed and the Sharks faded out of existence along with the many other Italian gangs in the area which brought the end of Little Hell also known as Little Sicily.
1960s decade, the expansion of the black ghetto and the rise of super gngs
The North Lawndale community was now under siege by gang control and violence. The block busting tactics of the 1950s had created a second black ghetto that was perhaps much worse than the original black ghetto of the south side. The Vice Lords street gang was multiplying in number rapidly as they smashed rival gangs and forced rival gang members to flip to becoming a Vice Lord. North Lawndale now became a sight of poverty and destitution as the last Jewish families moved out in the early 1960s and white owned businesses continued to close down, ruining the local economy and value of the neighborhood. Thousands of black youths clung to neighborhood gangs and were willing to do whatever in order to further the gang’s cause.
Neighboring East Garfield Park and West Garfield Park had now become slums with run down deteriorating buildings, and greedy landlords that refused to fix anything. Project buildings lined the west side streets in the Near West Side neighborhood that were mostly brand new and still in high demand for ideal living; however, renovations and services were in their earliest stages of being cut back.
On the south side streets, the Robert Taylor Projects were built between 1960 and 1962 that would become the largest public housing complex in the entire country. It was now clear that the city wanted to isolate the “black problem” by stuffing families on top of families within the creaking CHA high rises in the black ghetto.
The projects were mainly built in Bronzeville and the Near West Side because these were some of the oldest communities that were being forgotten by forward progress and neglected by upper classes that once lived, dined, shopped and worked along Grand Blvd (Martin Luther King Drive) or would dwell in the elegant mansions of Washington Park in the 19th century and very early 20th century. Now this was the black ghetto of the south side and the ghetto grew to include South Shore, Woodlawn, Englewood, West Englewood, Fuller Park and Riverdale.
Now neighborhoods such as Pullman, West Pullman, Avalon Park, Auburn – Gresham, Burnside, Chatham, Roseland, Calumet Heights, South Chicago and Washington Heights began to experience black settlement much to the displeasure of the majority white community. Bronzeville was long burned out and was getting worse and neighborhoods further south were the Promised Land back in the 1960s.
The south side streets in the black neighborhoods became full of gang activity back in the 1960s, but surprisingly no major super gangs formed on the Bronzeville streets of Oakland, Douglas, Grand Boulevard or Washington Park.
Super powers like the Black P Stones originated in the Woodlawn neighborhood which was just outside the black belt and Bronzeville. The Devil’s Disciples or Black Disciples started in the more pristine area of Hyde Park then spread to Woodlawn and Englewood in the early 1960s, once again not in Bronzeville. Even the Supreme Gangster south side chapter and the Gangster Nation formed a chapter on the streets of Englewood which lie west of the black belt. It would be just a matter of a short time before Disciples, Gangsters and Stones would take over the entire area of Bronzeville and dominate the various project buildings from Cermak Road to 66th Street and Federal Street to Stoney Island.
Vice Lords, Stones, Disciples and Gangsters were nasty gangs that soon numbered in the thousands in membership a piece as early as the mid-1960s. By the mid-1960s they began to organize themselves into becoming a black mafia.
All these organizations had connections with the Chicago Outfit and Sam Giancana, who was the same Sam Giancana that took down Ed Jones and Teddy Roe and the Black Policy racket. His outfit now supplied drugs to the black community since the 1950s and Giancana felt Heroin did not belong in Italian communities plus the whole mafia family worldwide would eliminate Outfit members involved if they knew drugs were being sold by the Outfit, so it was best to sell it in the black community where it would not be easily connected to the Outfit, and also Giancana did not care for blacks and did not care about the thought of black people putting poison in their veins.
By the 1960s the Outfit was working closer with Vice Lords, Stones and Disciples in supplying them with larger amounts of drugs other than the usual small amount here and there. The drugs were also now being distributed by young black youths instead of just adult black males, the rule of older days now changed, women were also using the drugs as well.
The Vice Lords were connecting to the mob more for running prostitution rings even though the Vice Lords stepped on the mob’s toes in 1961 as the mob tried to kill Vice Lord founder Edwin Pepilo Perry. Jeff Fort and his Black P Stones made a connection with the Milwaukee chapter of the Outfit later in the 1960s to move larger supplies of drugs and it appeared the Stones were supplying themselves.
The mob always tread very carefully when dealing with the black gangs because they did not want to get caught up in a conspiracy with them and also the black gangs were unpredictable and dangerous according to mob bosses, in the very early 1960s the Outfit struck a deal with the growing black gangs so the Outfit could withdraw from the direct retail aspect of the drug business on the south side and simply control how it was moved while taking a cut in the business.
Not all black leaders of these street gangs wanted in on the drug trade, in, fact, the actual leader of the Black P Stones Eugene “King Bull” Hairston heavily objected to the drug trade and was ready to go berserk on any Italian mobster he would see on the south side, he wanted to kill them all instead of do business with them and this is where King Bull and Jeff Fort differed. This can be compared to Johnny Torrio and Big Jim Colosimo in 1919-1920 when Torrio tried to convince Colosimo to supply the city with illegal liquor and Colosimo objected strongly. Torrio then supplied liquor behind Colosimo’s back and once Colosimo got close to the truth Torrio had Colosimo killed. This is very similar to Jeff Fort and King Bull as Fort was moving product behind Bull’s back and when Bull was getting close to the truth, Fort made sure Bull would not regain power over the BPSN when he was released from prison in 1968. Money talks, and Fort knew how to make lots of money which enticed 70% or more of the BPSN to follow him instead of Bull. Bull remained a behind the scenes guy until he was shot to death in September of 1988 outside the Ida B. Well projects.
The black gangs of the 1960s not only worked with the Outfit but also wanted to model after the Outfit because the Outfit had incredible success ever since their inception in the early 1910s. The black gangs knew in order to build a large army and to make millions of dollars like the mob they needed to become like the mob and get involved in politics. Vice Lords, Stones and Disciples all developed connections by the mid-1960s with politics and government programs.
By the late 1960s the Vice Lords had “CVL Inc” while the Stones dove into around a million dollars of granted anti-poverty funds. Many politicians, liberals and community outreach officials felt bad for how the mob muscled in and destroyed the black Policy racket that the black community relied on for so long. The hopes were that this money could help rebuild the black community and the Stones and Disciples would be like the Policy Kings but soon the FBI found out by 1969 that it was not always the case as funds were being used to buy street weapons and illegal drugs for distribution as well as legit businesses. The Vice Lords, on the other hand, were using the funds for more legit purposes by opening legit businesses near the intersection of 16th and Lawndale. CVL Inc actually was good for the community and helped drop the crime rate and kept the neighborhood in better condition; however, when the FBI began cutting government funding because of the Stones and Disciples, the Vice Lords were thrown into the same classification simply because they were a black organization; therefore, funding began to dry up as well as CVL positive leaders began to step out of the scene by the later part 1969.
The black gangs were infuriated with the FBI probing and the cutting off of funding especially since one of their fronts was a job training corps programs and classes for helping young black youths become more presentable for obtaining legit jobs. These types of programs were carried out by white organized crime for years and no one shut those down because they were white programs for whites and the mob had politicians in their back pockets. Black people needed help the most with trying to make a better living for themselves, but now they were being shut down. There was anger and resentment because even though these legit businesses may have had illegal operations going through them, the other side of the coin showed they were actually helping the black the community, this was especially the case with the Vice Lords.
In July of 1969, the black super powers slowed down their gang wars as they marched in protest for unfair treatment and better government funded job training programs. This movement was known as the “LSD Coalition” or “Lords Stones and Disciples” Coalition.
1960s decade, increased Latino migration and the rise of a super gang and the opposition
I the year 1960, the Lincoln Park neighborhood began an urban renewal program in order to raise the value of the neighborhood and keep the area middle class. This urban renewal project would result in the razing of homes that belonged to Puerto Rican people and once again the Puerto Rican people were told to leave their homes that they had just settled just two years ago. Puerto Rican people now began migration into the Wicker Park section of the West Town neighborhood, the West Humboldt Park neighborhood and the Lakeview neighborhood.
The Puerto Ricans would continue the migration over the course of the next few years. Once again the white population was not very happy to see Puerto Rican people moving into their neighborhoods, mainly because these people were not Americanized and had goals of opening businesses that catered to a Puerto Rican community. Puerto Rican youths soon made enemies with gangs like the Gaylords and the Simon City Gang in Humboldt Park.
In the year 1964 Puerto Rican youths began forming street gangs to combat the white racist Greaser clubs that were aimed at encouraging the halt of migration through the means of violence. The Young Lords set up operations in Wicker Park and Humboldt Park as well as activity in Lakeview, but Lakeview mostly had the “Latin Eagles” as their Puerto Rican movement.
As more Mexican people were displaced as a result of more construction in the Near West Side neighborhood along with more Mexican migration from Mexico, they found themselves moving in deeper into the Pilsen section of the Lower West Side neighborhood and also the Little Village section of the South Lawndale neighborhood. In Little Village Mexican youths soon clashed with the Gaylords of 24th Street and other various white Greaser clubs. The Latin King prophecy soon came calling to the youths of Little Village to join up with the takeover of 26th Street in 1964.
As the 1960s progressed both Little Village and Pilsen became increasingly gang infested with several different Mexican gangs forming, all battling for control of the neighborhood. In Little Village the story was a little different as Latin Kings dominated 26th Street but soon enough another gang would form called the “Twenty Sixth Street Boys” (Two Six) that gained fame and fear in the neighborhood real fast as they gunned down their enemies mafia style.
The Two Sixs were put there by the Mexican Mafia in order to secure their drug business along 26th Street, this put Latin Kings and Two Sixs in direct competition making the streets of Little Village bloody.
As the 1960s would progress white flight increased in higher volumes in both neighborhoods; however, many whites had to remain simply because they did not have the money to move to the suburbs. In Pilsen the Gaylords moved into the West Pilsen area to recruit white youths in the area that was all about stopping Mexican migration.
The Latin Kings were indeed geared toward becoming a super gang just like the Vice Lords, Stones and Disciples, that is why they began their campaign of massive expansion in 1964 and it soon caught on like wild fire.
By 1964 many rival gangs knew who the Latin Kings were and were ready to battle against them. The Kings got overzealous and pushed around smaller gangs to join them, most of the gangs caved in and joined but some stood their ground like the Young Lords, Spanish Cobras, Latin Eagles and Latin Disciples.
Young Lords and Latin Kings engaged in a vicious gang war between 1964 and 1966 as they both bid for control of East and West Humboldt Park and Wicker Park. The war did not end until the Division Street riots in June of 1966 when the Young Lords decided to no longer be a street gang but instead become a political movement for the Puerto Rican people.
As the later 1960s came around the Latin Kings had grown to have well over 1,000 members as they continued to absorb more little gangs. In the midst of this power grabbing campaign the Kings made a lot of enemies and that gave rise to eventual powerful enemies like the Two Sixs, Satan Disciples, Maniac Latin Disciples, Spanish Cobras and Imperial Gangsters. Imperial Gangsters and Maniac Latin Disciples had their start in the rise to power in the East Humboldt Park and Logan Square areas by the later 1960s as they both swelled to more than 100+ members. The hatred toward Latin Kings created many violent street gangs in and around Humboldt Park.
By the late 1960s Puerto Rican people touched down in the all-white neighborhood of Logan Square that lies just north of Humboldt Park. Once again white flight was beginning and once again newly arrived Puerto Rican people were not greeted with open arms from the white populace, as once again, gangs of white greasers attacked them viciously.
1960s decade, white flight and Greaser powerhouses
All around the United States suburbanization became popular as mostly white city dwellers became tired of the hustle and bustle and crime of the city. The automobile was much more reliable by the 1950s and more complex highway systems were constructed making a daily commute to employment to the city more possible while coming home to live a suburban life at home. Subdivisions were built up in large numbers in these suburbs that were once rural areas and this was no different in the Chicago area as suburbs became full of former Chicagoans, and this number would increase by the 1960s as more subdivisions grew and more towns became incorporated.
In the 1960s the neighborhoods white Chicagoans were leaving were; Humboldt Park, Wicker Park, Near West Side, West Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, Pilsen, Little Village, Roseland, West Pullman, Pullman, Avalon Park, Calumet Heights, South Chicago, Burnside, Chatham, Auburn-Gresham, Washington Heights, Morgan Park and the southern part of West Town.
White families were beginning to experience upward mobility and were able to afford their own home in the quite suburbs, but those of lower incomes would have to remain in the city and live among the blacks and Latinos that were piling into their neighborhoods. The ones that remained were now tasked with keeping the migration from spreading further into their neighborhoods. The adults petitioned and sought the assistance of politics while the youths had the more violent approach of making the newly arrived families’ lives a living hell. This violence could be something as simple as throwing a rock through a window and name calling all the way up to administering beatings or burning crosses on a lawn of a black or Latino family.
In most cities around the country the Greaser fad was completely dead by 1965 but here in Chicago the Greaser term and fad would live on into the 1980s, because in Chicago being a “Stone Greaser” meant more than something out of West Side Story, it meant truly living up to the label as a Greaser by being fearless and brutal to your enemies.
There were thousands of Greaser clubs scattered all over the city in the 1960s but by the later 1960s having Greaser super gangs became more important in order to compete with super powers like the Latin Kings, Vice Lords, Black P Stones and Black Gangster Disciples. In the late 1960s both the Gaylords and Simon City Royals went on a campaign for a takeover of as many Greaser clubs as they could so they could all fight against the common enemy which was the Latino gangs. Gaylords now spread to West Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Irving Park, Lincoln Square and Uptown neighborhoods that were all experiencing a Latino invasion and the Gaylords took advantage of youths that were angry about it by convincing them to join their numbers. The Simon City Royals opened territory in Lakeview and soon became giants in that neighborhood as they battled the Latin Eagles and Puerto Rican Stones. This was the beginning of a major white street gang following, that would become legendary in Chicago.
1970s decade, the black super gangs rise
The last Chicago Housing Authority project buildings were put up in the year 1970, the Madden Park Homes in the Oakland neighborhood. As soon as this project was complete it, along with the entire housing projects fell into complete neglect not only from the government but also from the police. CHA had messed up and invested incorrectly and mismanaged the funding for maintenance of these projects despite credible warnings going back as far as the 1950s that the projects were doomed to fail. These projects would then become the sight of deterioration, drugs, depression, poverty and death.
The majority of the projects were built in the Bronzeville section which further depreciated the value of Bronzeville and made it into a hellish and hopeless slum. Black P Stones and Black Gangsters Disciples had taken over all the project buildings on the south side as they battled against each other for control.
The upsurge of Heroin in 1970 did not help things and instead made the black community more addicted than ever, but gangs took complete control of the drug trade as the Italian Mafia became further hidden out of involvement.
The LSD Coalition folded in October of 1973 as the goal of job creation for African Americans completely failed, and a violent act by Vice Lords upon Black Gangsters Disciples brought the end of it as well.
Jeff Fort and his Stones continued toward organizing into a black mob as Fort forced his Stones to convert to the nation of Islam in 1976, turning them into the “El Rukns” after spending 4 years in prison for mismanaging government grants in the late 1960s. The imprisoning of Jeff Fort and Larry Hoover of the Black Gangsters Disciples did nothing to stop these two empires from growing, in fact, they only grew stronger. There was a massive problem with poverty, drugs and violence plaguing the black community and black youths turned to street gangs for answers which guided them into the Black P Stone Empire or the Black Gangster Disciple nation.
On the west side of Chicago the Vice Lords successfully ran out all of their competition and resorted to fighting each other as each faction bid for control of the lucrative Heroin trade. Heroin was bigger than life on the west side and got really big in the Austin neighborhood that was turning into a black neighborhood rapidly as white Greasers tried to fight off the arriving blacks. The Vice Lords of North Lawndale now numbered into the several thousands and were trying to take some turf on the south side.
1974 was the most violent year in Chicago history as the city experienced an alarming 970 murders. Most of these murders were gang related homicides and a large percentage of them happened in the black ghettos. All the chaos of the 1970s brought about a need for organization that was once again modeled after the Chicago Outfit.
Larry Hoover, the leader of the Black Gangsters Disciples, sat down with allies and enemies of all different races in Pontiac Correctional Facility and proposed a way to organize their respective gangs in order to govern and organize gang wars and alliances. This is something the Mafia had been doing for over 100 years. Gang wars are costly and cut into profits made on the streets and in prison for high ranking leaders, but two separate unities would control the violence and maybe even make the streets safer. This was the creation of the Folk Nation alliance and the People Nation alliance. Some of the oldest and largest street gangs joined one of these two alliances bringing Chicago gangs into a new era.
1970s decade, Latino gangs take some of the spotlight
In the 1970s, Puerto Rican migration further intensified as neighborhoods like Humboldt Park and Wicker Park became majority Latino neighborhoods. Logan Square began to see a major upsurge in Latino migration as the neighborhood slipped into a state of poverty and deterioration.
The miration then moved further north into the Albany Park neighborhood which offered cheap housing due to the crumbling conditions. Albany Park completely fell apart in the 1970s and became a hub of prostitution, drug dealing and drug addiction.
Puerto Ricans also began stronger migration into the Uptown and Lakeview neighborhoods as dilapidated housing was cheap in Uptown. Now that the Puerto Rican population was increasing in these communities there was all-out war between whites and Latinos, the white gangs were growing very large into the several thousands in membership.
Gangs like Gaylords, Simon City Royals and Almighty Insane Popes grew to becoming some of the largest gangs in the city, and they were all out to attack the Puerto Ricans that the white gangs felt threatened the American way of life. The racial attacks against the Puerto Ricans brought a need for many youths to jam pack themselves into membership into the Latin Kings organization. Latin Kings became such a big thing back in the 1970s that if you were Latino and not a member on the north side you would be a target.
The Latin Kings expected all Puerto Ricans to join their gang and when refused they would write that youth off as an enemy. This imperialistic attitude led many of Puerto Rican youths to fight against the Latin Kings because many had too much pride to be bullied into joining something they did not want to be part of but instead of joining one major gang, the Latin King opposing Latinos on the north side joined multiple gangs like the Imperial Gangsters, Latin Eagles, Spanish Cobras and Latin Disciples. If these gangs had joined into one organization they would have come close to the amount of Latin King members but instead they formed a unity to band together against white gangs and Latin Kings.
At first the “YLO” was formed then came the “ULO” by 1978 which united these 4 bigger gangs against common enemies. Once these gangs unified their memberships took off in much higher volumes especially the Latin Disciples. Before long the Latin Disciples swelled into having hundreds of members.
By 1979 the Latin Disciples had one of the biggest drug trades on the north side operating out of the East Humboldt Park section of the West Town neighborhood. Latin Disciples and Spanish Cobras were working together heavily in the drug trade by the late 1970s as both gangs profited from the East Humboldt Park pipeline. Both gangs were willing to kill Latin Kings and their allies the Insane Unknowns to keep them out of direct competition. This competition led to the violent deaths of the leaders of the Spanish Cobras, Latin Disciples and Insane Unknowns. The Spanish Cobra and Insane Unknown war became legendary and the bodies piled up and made headline news.
By the later 1970s the ULO and Latin King influence spread into the Hermosa and Belmont-Cragin neighborhoods as legendary gang wars erupted with the white gangs for control of Hansen Park and Kelvyn Park.
Mexican migration increased tremendously in the 1970s in the Pilsen section of the Lower West Side neighborhood, and scores of white residents moved out. More new gangs were being formed in this neighborhood while pre-existing gangs were only growing stronger in number.
The super powers of the Pilsen area were Latin Counts, Ambrose and Satan Disciples. Latin Counts and Ambrose were fighting viciously for control of everything east of Ashland Avenue while the Satan Disciples were out to dominate everything west of Ashland Ave. Latin King territory in Pilsen was not real large instead they found greater success operating in the Little Village section of the South Lawndale neighborhood as they dominated a major chunk of 26th Street and then several blocks all around it. The only real competitor of the Latin Kings was the Two Sixs that also wanted control of 26th Street as they did take over the other large chunk along with several other sets. These two gangs were evenly matched against each other while other gangs in the neighborhood either stayed out of the drug trade or kept their numbers small in order not to attract too much attention from these bigger rivals. Little Village became a neighborhood that did not have a major variety of gangs like nearby Pilsen due to the oppressive dominance of the Latin Kings and Two Six street gangs.
The sale of drugs took a major spike starting in the late 1970s. The sale of these drugs caught on among the Puerto Rican gangs earlier than it did among the Mexican gangs. Drug sales started being pushed by Latin Kings on the north side back in the mid-1960s; however, the operations took a backwards step once many members of the Latin Kings became severely addicted to the Heroin they were trying to sell, this led to the creation of the “Latin Kings Manifesto” in 1972 by incarcerated leadership. The street leadership of “King Papo” was then removed.
By the later 1970s the drug game started to get larger in the Pilsen neighborhood as the gangs of 18th Street partook in this massive city-wide operation. The creation of the Folk and People alliance in 1978 lured Latinos further into the drug.
When the Folk and People alliances were formed, the Latino street gangs were inspired by the organized crime-like process of the Chicago Outfit. The organization of gang wars and alliances was the exact thing the Outfit had been doing since their inception in the 1910s and now leadership of the Latinos wanted to follow closely in those footsteps going into the 1980s decade, they had already begun this process by reaching out to black gangs and even white gangs for assistance and business deals, just like mobsters do.
The ULO gangs united with the Simon City Royals and Almighty Insane Popes as they all joined the Folk Nation together. The Latin Disciples heavily connected with the Black Gangsters Disciples in the 1970s to help their organization stay out of an onslaught of attacks while in prison. The Latin Kings formed early alliances with Vice Lords and Black P Stones and helped both organizations by co-authoring the Nation Of The Peoples alliance. The Latino gangs had influence from the Mexican Mafia and even Puerto Rican organizations that would connect them all the way up to the Chicago Outfit.
1970s decade, the peak of white gang’s power
Even though the neighborhoods of: Albany Park, Uptown, Belmont-Cragin, Hermosa, Logan Square, Lakeview, Austin, Humboldt Park, West Town, Near West Side, South Lawndale, Lower West Side, Brighton Park, Gage Park, New City, Chicago Lawn, West Englewood, Auburn-Gresham, Washington Heights, Roseland, Chatham, West Pullman, Pullman, South Deering, Avalon Park, Burnside, Calumet Heights and South Chicago were all experiencing either a heavier takeover or the beginning of a takeover of Latinos or African Americans, the white gangs still rose to numbering in their absolute peak, stronger than any decade that proceeded the 1970s.
Even though there may have been a larger variety of white street gangs in the years before, now there were gangs that numbered into the hundreds or even into the thousands on the streets of Chicago as they battled to push migration back and keep their neighborhoods sustaining a fair amount of a white population. In most of these communities their fights was not successful but in some others, there were claims that the fight was successful but this can easily be accredited to other factors.
On the south side the battle was being fought with Mexicans and African Americans. In neighborhoods like Brighton Park, Gage Park, Chicago Lawn (Marquette Park), New City (Back Of The Yards) the battle was against the Mexican people and the Mexican gangs. White greasers did not want to relinquish control of these streets and the greasers fought hard to keep their neighborhoods white; however, they became more concerned over time of a black invasion which was something that was protested as early as the Martin Luther King march of 1966, as it marched right through Gage Park. After this, white power groups formed that included names such as the “White Knights” of Marquette Park.
In neighborhoods like Marquette Park, South Chicago and South Deering the invasion was both a Mexican and African American invasion; however, neighborhoods like South Chicago and South Deering did not put up much of a fight, instead white flight came in higher volumes in the later 1970s.
In the deeper south side communities, white greaser gangs were fighting a very hard to win battle against the African American community and the black gangs that were moving in. Neighborhoods like Roseland, Pullman and Burnside spawned an organization of white people from this neighborhood that were fed up with black migration and wanted to slow it down. They even tried to get on the side of politics but by the later 1970s, it was proving to be a losing battle.
In the 1970s the white greasers battled gangs of African Americans that were sometimes twice the size in number, but one thing the white gangs had going for them were the racist police officers that always sided with the white gangs and actually encouraged them to gang bang on the blacks. Whenever a gang brawl would break out between whites and blacks the police came and only arrested the black gang members. In the end no matter how hard the white gangs fought for their neighborhood, the areas became majority black by the late 1970s and it became in their best interest to pack up and leave.
On the north side of the city the battle was being lost for Humboldt Park as Puerto Ricans became the overwhelming vast majority by 1980. If there were not Puerto Ricans, there were African American in this neighborhood. By the late 1970s white gangs like Simon City Royals and Gaylords withdrew from the area as the fight was now deemed a lost cause; however, in every other neighborhood that had the Latino invasion the fight was still very much alive or was just beginning.
Logan Square, Albany Park and Uptown became a racially fueled war zone as Latin Kings, Latin Eagles, Imperial Gangsters, P.R. Stones, Simon City Royals, Gaylords, Spanish Cobras and Latin Disciples viciously battled for these neighborhoods. It was in these neighborhoods that white gangs like the Simon City Royals and Gaylords boasted that they helped slow down Puerto Rican migration. This very well could be true based upon the fact that a Latino family might become discouraged to live somewhere if there was an immediate threat of violence from a large gang that was standing on your block. Neighborhoods like Lakeview can be less accredited for the push back of Latino migration by gangs because this neighborhood still had higher class sections that increased property value. The urban renewal project of the 1960s really increased the value in much of the neighborhood.
In the year 1971, a great number of the white gangs from the north side streets felt, it was time to stop all the gang wars and create a unity to fight off the common enemy which was the Puerto Rican gangs that was taking over through migration. The white gangs started the “WPO” or “White Power Organization” which effectively brought about a cease fire among all the white gangs. The biggest gangs like the Gaylords, Simon City Royals and Almighty Popes were now fighting side by side against the many Latino clubs. The WPO did not last and ended in 1973, but a new unity came about called the “UFO” or “United Five Organization” which consisted of the Gaylords, C-Notes, Taylor Jousters, PVP (PVRs) and Chi West; however, wars with Royals and Popes was not real bad, in fact, many times they would still ally up until 1975 when the leadership of the Popes and Royals was absent.
It was during these years of 1971-1975 that the powerful white gangs expanded into new neighborhoods and also recruited several more soldiers to join their mostly white army. They also took their fight into neighborhoods like Belmont-Cragin and Hermosa as these neighborhoods started to see the earliest Latino take over, but this enemy was not only Puerto Ricans, they were also Mexicans.
Despite the fact that the Simon City Royals were leaderless, they peaked in their power to having membership in the thousands by 1979. The Gaylords were also at their peak in power in 1979 being ranked as the fourth largest gang in Chicago. So then this leads to the question of how these gangs achieved their peak of power by 1979 when the neighborhoods they came from were less white than ever. The less white the neighborhood, the more powerful these gangs became which does not seem to make sense, especially when you compare how the Latino gangs became more powerful as Latino enclaves grew larger, or how black gangs always got bigger when their population grew. At first, it seems confusing that there is a positive correlation in white gang growth with negative white population growth, but I will explain how this worked in the next paragraph.
In the earlier parts of this piece it will appear that the white man had victimized the black and Latino man for several years, and indeed that is mostly what happened in the early history of Chicago. When blacks and Latinos would first arrive in all-white neighborhoods they were not greeted warmly, instead they were tormented and beaten back in the 1950s and 1960s. By the 1970s the situation was often different as these neighborhoods become more majority black or Hispanic. White flight came about when families earned enough income and garnered the privilege to afford to live in the swanky suburbs near the city.
The suburbs were new, gang free, not deteriorated, quiet and all around safe with better schools and families of men that had decent, stable jobs and were not the victim of the many factories that were closing in the city, these men could have that privilege to make a better life for their wives and children and have their children live in a gang free neighborhood far from the insanity of the wicked streets of Chicago. The rest of the white families consisted of lower income families, fathers that were alcoholics and abusive, or single parent families with mothers that struggled just to put food on the table. Even though these type of families are statistically found more in the Latino and African American communities they are still a reality in the white population as well. These were the families left behind that could not afford to jump on the white flight bandwagon. They had to stay behind and watch their neighborhood change.
The restaurants, the stores and even the jobs they once knew were gone and replaced by something that was unfamiliar and often not friendly to them. One thing to clarify is the fight was not necessarily toward people of another skin color but toward outsiders moving into the community of another skin color. The Latino and black population that was in these white neighborhoods for generations were treated equally and allowed to join white gangs without any questions asked. Because the outsiders were usually of a different race, the struggle always ended being a racial issue. The families that could not afford white flight were left in a gang infested and drug infested neighborhood.
A young white youth would be walking the streets of his neighborhood, perhaps to go to the store or go to school and he might be taunted or attacked by gang members of another race. They would taunt him and shout racial insults and maybe send him home a bloody mess, before he even had a chance to understand what gang life even is. The local white gang would eventually witness the bullying or hear of it then act as a helping hand reaching out to that youth offering him protection in gangs such as the Gaylords, Simon City Royals, Almighty Insane Popes or the C-Notes in exchange for him helping fight for their cause. At home things were rough as he faced poverty, maybe an alcoholic and abusive father or maybe no father at all. The gang would become the father figure he needs as he would fight against the growing minority group in the neighborhood.
Too many white youths felt outnumbered and more were sold on the importance in fighting in this gang war for the side of the white man. The white gangs offered a plan to stop the drug related gang activity of the Latino or black gangs that were destroying the neighborhood, being piss poor did not matter, the white gangs were opposed to selling drugs. Their cause seemed very righteous to many starry eyed youths and the struggle caught on like wild fire especially since police and local government officials supported the efforts of white gangs.
By the late 1970s things would start to change as white gangs on the south side and west side started to die out or move the other white areas, and gangs like the Simon City Royals would begin relinquishing a lot of their white power stance after they went into the arms trade business with the Black Disciples. In 1978 the Simon City Royals and the Almighty Insane Popes joined the Folk Nation alliance and were now allies with Latino and black gangs; however, the unity was not heavily felt until they each had a leader in 1980.
Early 1980s, the race issue dies down and a call for unity
In the year 1980, both the Folk and People nations opened their doors wider to let in more gangs that were younger or smaller in size into these alliances. It was decided it was in the interest of both alliances to let in all the smaller gangs because those smaller gangs could still raise hell and disrupt any operations both in prison and on the streets.
In this year of 1980 the Folk and People nations also sanctioned the ability of the original gangs that joined in 1978 to have the ability to guide another organization into one of the alliances on the streets instead of making it a prison exclusive process. Approval can be made on the streets but only after final approval or at least a blessing was given from the higher ups behind bars, but paperwork would not have to be involved or a major sit down with prison leaders.
The gang scene of Chicago was still very much divided along racial line in the years of 1980 to 1983. The Folk and People nation alliance were mainly only known behind prison walls; however, word was sent out on the streets to start getting along with certain old enemies or at least stop pursuing violence. This command was given to the Gaylords in the year 1980 when they were instructed by leadership to leave the Latin Kings, Spanish Lords and Insane Unknowns alone.
The Latin Kings were an arch enemy of the Gaylords ever the Kings were broken into smaller gangs prior to 1964 now there were orders to leave them alone? Why? This was the questions many young Gaylords asked, some were told about the Nation Of The Peoples alliance they had just joined alongside former enemies the Insane Deuces, but most Gaylords were not told about the People Nation.
Not only were the Gaylords left in the dark, many gang members city-wide had no idea why they were backing off former enemies. There was confusion in Pilsen on why the Latin Counts now had to back off the Latin Kings.
In the projects on the south side it was not totally known why Black Gangsters Disciples were not wildly attack Black Disciples and vice versa. There was new unity behind bars and it was only to be for the higher up generals of these gangs to worry about the functionality of these new alliances as they now controlled all the gang wars and alliances while incarcerated.
By 1983 it became too confusing to remember who all your allies were and several mistakes kept happening, this led the leaders to agree upon putting both alliances on the streets by creating gang related fashion trends and common symbols to be used to tell apart Folk from People gangs. The six point star meant Folks while the five point star meant People. A hat tilted to the right meant Folks while the hat tilted to the left meant People. There were various other trends that involved which shoe you laced up or what pant leg was rolled up, even Folk and People was identified by which ear was pierced. These new alliances broke down the racial wars that plagued the streets in the previous decades, now the fight was over which star you sided with.
The white gangs were even on the same page as Gaylords joined the People Nation and Simon City Royals and Popes joined the Folks. The racist unity of the UFO was shattered in 1982 when the Gaylords and C-Notes went to war, now the Gaylords had new allies that were the black and Latino gangs of the five point star, if they needed them.
Mid-1980s and the peak of Folk and People unity
The racial boundaries were indeed disintegrating, Simon City Royals, Insane Popes, C-Notes all began taking in members of other races as much as they took in more whites while many of the white members that gang banged during the racial war days were now dead, in prison or retired.
The Latino gangs always let in whites since the 1960s but now the gates were swung open wider especially since Latino migration had completely conquered what was needed in Logan Square, Albany Park, Uptown and now the suburbs began to experience increased migration. For young white youths in the city, it became their best interest to join the black and Latino gangs.
The mid-1980s was the best time for gang unity as Folk on Folk or People on People gang wars were mostly unheard of in the city and suburbs. If there was a war it was very brief and squashed easily. The street gangs were able to act how the Outfit acts with wars by controlling gang wars and offering reparation if there was a conflict between two allied gangs.
The gangs were indeed on the right path to becoming more like organized crime as the drug trade and weapons trade would expand across allies with little to know interference from gangs of the same star. Drug territories were also laid out and understood within the alliances so that gangs would know where they could or could not operate which was very similar to when the Chicago Outfit sat down with the North Side Gang in 1921 and established boundaries.
Many of times if grievances came up they were brought before a council and a deal was worked out to prevent a bloody gang war. By this point in history it seemed like the street gangs of Chicago were on the right path to becoming just like the mob and reducing the violence. This was imperative especially since automatic and higher powered weapons were starting to be passed around on the streets. There was even a drop in homicides between 1982 and 1988 when the alliances were at their best.
Late 1980s, the beginning of the end of the Folk and People unity and the rise of the mighty dollar
I the year 1985 Crack Cocaine was first being introduced on the streets as a cheaper and faster high than powder Cocaine, by 1986 the profits were stacking higher than ever, and by the late 1980s, drug wars intensified over the distribution of it. As if Heroin was not bad enough, and despite the fact it was more addictive than crack; however, crack had the dope fiends coming back faster and it was cheaper than Heroin making it more regularly bought.
Crack Cocaine was especially popular in the projects as the Black Gangsters Disciples wanted a complete takeover of the Crack distribution. The BGDs became disrespectful to the fact that their allies the Black Disciples wanted their rightful piece of the pie and began trying to push them out of Englewood and the south side public housing projects, this sparked a major gang war in 1989 between these two Folk Nation gangs that sat on the Folk council as a governing body. They were now not setting a good example as Folks and how Folks should treat each other. The BGDs even dropped the “B” from their name and became just the “Gangsters Disciples” in a show of further hate toward BDs.
Two Sixs and Satan Disciples also broke out into a vicious gang war over drug turf in Little Village in 1988, while Spanish Cobras and Latin Disciples began slowly disrespecting each other in East Humboldt Park in 1989. Insane Deuces, P.R. Stones and GBOs were fed up with Latin Kings and were thinking about war by 1987. The masterpiece of the Folk and People nations was about to come unglued all because of drug turf.
All these gang wars were all because of drugs. The Latin Kings felt entitled to run the drug game in the Lathrop Projects and take it from the Deuces while GDs tried to muscle BDs out of Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylors.
Satan Disciples thought they should have some of 26th Street drug profits and Two Six was not having it. The Latino Folk gangs had an excellent idea to prevent things from spinning out of control, they created the “SGD” (not the Spanish Gangsters Disciples gang) board or “La Tabla” behind prison walls that would govern Latino Folk Nation gangs and hopefully stop more conflict, but one piece of bad news was it empowered the Latin Disciples and they began pushing around Spanish Cobras.
The Outfit saw the connection with SGD (Spanish Growth And Development) as a prime opportunity to garner profits from working with them; therefore, the Outfit lent a helping hand to SGD. Once again the Outfit had influence over Chicago street gangs. The Outfit also connected with the Latin Kings and People Nation gangs as well but SGD was the biggest investment and would hopefully show promise toward organizing the Folks.
White gangs that refused to assimilate heavily with other races began a rapid decline. Gangs like the Gaylords, Taylor Jousters, PVRs and Uptown Rebels were examples. While gangs like C-Notes, Simon City Royals and Insane Popes took in other races with no problem. Regardless of whether the white gangs let in other races, drug addiction, incarceration and retirement plagued their ranks along with more white flight. Simon City Royals and Gaylords were no longer even on the top 10 list of largest gangs in Chicago, as some of their sets began to close.
1990s decade, the end of Folk and People unity and money is all that matters
By the mid-1980s the Folk and People unities had proven to be a success as gangs were able to walk through each other’s hoods, hang out with each other and even sell dope near each other’s turf. They also fought vicious gang brawls with gangs of the opposite star side by side. This tight unity was indeed short lived as drugs, money and power got in the way of controlled gang wars and set turf.
In the 1980s the gangs were on their way to becoming more like organized crime but the issues of not having the same connections as organized crime would plague these street gangs. Organized crime always had extensive connections with several politicians, ward bosses, judges, and many policemen. The street gangs had connections to maybe a politician here and there, maybe a ward boss, almost no judges, policemen but to a lesser degree. Street gangs often lacked the education and hook ups old organized crime had.
Back in the 1950s organized crime was no longer connected directly to street gangs. When the Outfit muscled into the black neighborhoods on the south side and west side and took over the numbers racket, they wanted nothing to do with the rest of the community unless it was to introduce them to the sale of drugs. There was no help to the community and no taking in young black males to become Outfit associates like the mob did for gangs like the C-Notes in the Patch. The defeat of black Policy actually meant the defeat of the entire black community because income and general safety on the streets was diminished after black organized crime left. The black gang members after the Policy era were left to fend for themselves and were never able to put together a fully organized empire despite repeated efforts.
The Latinos started off late in history and did not create larger organizations until later into the 1960s and by then, garnering enough political support became impossible.
In the 1960s decade the Outfit was under heavy investigation by the U.S. government, not only that, street gangs fell under the radar as soon as they began to slowly gain some political support in the late 1960s, by the early 1970s the government squashed any hope of any new organizations rising to become as powerful as organized crime, but what was overlooked was that it went too far and actually hurt the communities. A great example is the case with the Conservative Vice Lords that actually had a positive impact on the community, but the government hastily took it all away. The street gangs then tried to build it all up themselves from scratch once again in the 1980s but patience was wearing thin and too many organizations were not on board.
The larger street gangs were also tough to manage because they were scattered all over the city and the suburbs; therefore, many sections of gangs would act up and start wars with allies, then tell their side of the story to leadership that was above all sections, making themselves look innocent.
The Outfit never had more than a few hundred members directly in their organization instead they would contract a lot of small time criminals to carry out any deeds that needed to be done. If the contracted individual was needed on a regular basis they would become known as an “associate” but when it came time for an associate to go down by the police the Outfit withdrew all knowledge of that individual and that person could not claim to be a part of the actual Outfit.
Street gangs such as the Latin Kings, Vice Lords, Gangster Disciples and Black P Stones were in the business of managing well over 10,000 members a piece which makes it impossible to control the behaviors of everyone. Even the Outfit had issues over the years controlling a few members. At the Outfit membership peak in the 1920s, one member after another was being killed by their own kind for not following the rules.
Every criminal organization has wild ones that are hard to control, Sam Giancana was a perfect example of a wild one in the Outfit. First, he went behind the Outfit’s back when he kidnapped Policy King Big Ed Jones. He also blatantly went up against Ted Kennedy and laughed in his face publicly, then when Tony Accardo and Paul Ricca told him to leave the country, he returned a few years later; therefore, the Outfit put a bullet in his head in 1975. This is a prime example of how the Outfit controlled their wild ones, but Chicago street gangs did not have those controls because it was too difficult to kill off members that had friends that would often number in the hundreds that would get upset over the death. With all these wild ones roaming the streets killing at random or starting wars, it became impossible to control the wars, especially within larger organization like the Latin Kings or Maniac Latin Disciples. The SGD coalition for example, was put in place in 1989 to help stop escalating issues among Latino Folk gangs; however, instead the biggest drug dealers and also the largest gang on the board, the Maniac Latin Disciples felt this was another power piece for them to use as they muscled in on other SGD gangs, their first victim were the Spanish Cobras who were their biggest allied competition. Maniac Latin Disciples and even other gangs on SGD often threw cash bribes to other SGD board members to obtain their votes if another gang raised a grievance, the cash bribes brought about corruption within SGD.
On the People Nation side, the Latin Kings were growing at an incredible rate by the late 1980s and into the very early 1990s. Many sections of Latin Kings wanted control of the drug trade of a certain area; therefore, they pushed allies around and by 1991, the Latin Kings had their hands full fighting several interalliance gang wars due to this behavior.
In the black ghettos greed showed its ugly head when black youths in the projects and the south side and west side slums ran out of patience waiting for their organization to graduate to a more organized status. When they knew all they had to do was gun down another allied gang from around the corner to secure a $2,000 a week drug operation, they set their guns blazing to add on to their own organizations’ profits, and then eventually they were doing it only for their section and no longer cared about the organization as a whole especially after they found out only the highest ranking chiefs make higher profits from alliances while lower ranked members actually make less money from having allies.
Vicious civil wars broke out by the early 1990s between Gangster Disciple sections and also Vice Lord sections. Vice Lord sections began acting as their own gang as the killing between the sections became as intense as they killed the rival Folk Nation gangs.
Having lots of money and owning expensive clothes and jewelry became a big thing by the mid-1980s and gang members were willing to kill for it; however, they knew how to get what they needed and put a filter on the violence after that, but by the early 1990s, violence and money making was all over main stream media in the music industry and on television which prompted more and more inner city youths to obtain the flashiest clothes, the new Jordans and whip out wads of cash of their pockets. The only way to stack this kind of money was to kill off your competition. The young bucks did not make as much drug money as the older higher ups that were closer to controlling the gang’s drug trade, so these young bucks felt jealous and cheated and went out to get it themselves. The older members would at first seem upset but once they knew they were going to get more taxes from the young dealers they let it go and let a war carry on. Many of times these wars were not directly started by drug disputes, instead they would be started over someone disrespecting someone at a party or painting a disrespectful tag, which was common back in the 1980s, but this type of situation would be resolved before rumor would spread of a war starting. In the early 1990s and later these skirmishes were not resolved and often laughed off by the aggressor which led to retaliation, then the aggressor could say it was the retaliator’s fault. These were the type of complaints always being filed with the SGD in the 1990s and the board would ignore many of them.
Hate and animosity grew in the 1990s until the guns were pointed in all directions instead of just in one direction. The murder rate skyrocketed in the early 1990s to almost the same levels as the 1970s, but this time innocent children were getting mowed down by wild machine gun fire. The public became quite upset over the murders of little children which led the police and FBI to corner street gang drug operations more than ever in an attempt to shut them down and take them off the street. The prison system became more packed than ever to the point of overcrowding. The overcrowding led to more killings in prison and more difficulty controlling the gang wars. This was all a mess as the 1990s progressed as the bodies continued to stack up and the number of alliances continued to shrink.
Conclusion, the influence over time
As criminal elements first appeared in Chicago in the late 1850s and set up an underground enclave of vice, gambling and smuggling in the tunnels under Little Hell and Goose Island, the first mob boss Michael Cassius Mcdonald joined them and created an organized crime empire for the Irish criminal element in Little Hell then eventually Back Of The Yards, Bridgeport and Canaryville.
The empire of Michael Mcdonald put money into the pockets of corrupt politicians, Ward bosses, policemen, and even the young dirty faced lads that roamed the streets in gangs. As the young lads grew older they became ward bosses or politicians and rose from the poverty; however, they had their gang affiliation that was now converted into an alumni club full of policemen and corrupt officials as they would pass down the ways of corruption and crime to later generations of desperate young Irish lads looking to survive the dirty streets and finding the next stolen bite to eat.
Eventually the dirty faced lads were also of Italian/Sicilian ethnicity and were being mentored by the same corrupt Irishmen that were once street thugs themselves. The Irish mob expanded their network to mentor and do business with criminal groups of other ethnicities, this is when they mentored Big Jim Colosimo a Sicilian, and John Mushmouth Johnson a African American, through the influence of their corrupt ward bosses the Grey Wolves. Together Mushmouth and Big Jim ran a gambling racket in downtown Chicago which first connected the Sicilians with the African Americans that would carry on into the 1910s decade when the black Policy racket returned and Colosimo rose to being the boss of the new Chicago Outfit.
By the roaring 1920s, the Outfit had risen to power as the power moved from Big Jim to Johnny Torrio and on to Al Capone as they supplied the city with booze and fought with the Irish Mafia inspired North Side Gang that pretty much became the new Irish Mafia. The black Policy racket continued to grow into power as one of their business partners was the Chicago Outfit and many of the same politicians, policemen and ward bosses worked with both organizations.
By the 1940s both the Chicago Outfit and black Policy became the kings of organized crime in Chicago as they were able to have absolute control on their neighborhoods. The Chicago Outfit muscled in on the black Policy Kings as they began a takeover after a bloody war that stretched into 1952. The removal of black Policy brought the black community a new type of connection, the drug connection orchestrated by Sam Giancana as he supplied blacks with Heroin to sell in the black ghetto, this would bring about the first influence on black street gangs by the Chicago Outfit.
In the 1960s black street gangs now had the desire to operate more like organized crime as they began reaching out to the community and politicians. The Latino gangs caught on to this and began indulging in the same way of operating. As the street gangs began to tap into the mass drug sale pipeline they tried to continue a path operating like organized crime by creating a council or controlling gang wars through alliances while being mentored by the Chicago Outfit. Eventually the mentoring would lead to the Growth and Development and Spanish Growth And Development as the Gangsters Disciples and their Latin Folks allies tried to organize while the Outfit backed up a lot of this until the demise of SGD in 1999.
Over time, Mafia figures mentored street gangs, then street gangs evolved into mafia figures or corrupt government officials that mentored newer gangs that would eventually grow up to follow the same path, and eventually this would give rise to the most powerful organized crime elements in Chicago’s history that, in turn, mentored and influenced today’s street gangs as they evolved into large empires that would go on to control the retail part of the drug trade while organized crime controlled the behind the scenes part.
Each organization walked in each other’s footsteps and learned from each other directly or indirectly until the rise of the People and Folk gangs stole the spot light. Chicago is a gangster city and has that name for a reason because this is the most corrupt city and has been since at least the 1860s and our mobs learn from each other over time and mold each other over time.
As long as organized crime has existed in Chicago there has always been law enforcement breathing down the necks of mob figures. At one time organized crime was out in the open talking to the press, flaunting around in the streets partying until the daybreak, and even engaging in violent gang wars right outside the average Chicagoan’s windows.
The city was left in fear of organized crime but also there was admiration for these groups that ran Chicago that had such colorful personalities as they mingled with average and high society. For many years the few incorruptible law enforcement individuals worked tirelessly day and night to try to take down organized crime. Elliot Ness and Robert Kennedy were the most well-known men that relentlessly pursued the Chicago Outfit until the Outfit withdrew into extra secrecy and seclusion in the later 20th Century.
These days you do not hear much about the Italian Mafia except maybe a big controversial court case here and there, but is life better now that the mob is kept at bay? I would say not really in my opinion. The black Policy racket no doubt, kept the black community paid, taken care of and prevented violent street gangs from destroying the community like they did in other Chicago neighborhoods like Little Hell and Back Of The Yards.
In the 1950s when black Policy was rubbed out by Sam Giancana’s men who, in turn, supplied the black community with Heroin which destroyed the community in a devastating way. This breakdown of the black community gave rise to violent street gangs like the Black P Stones, Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords that took the Heroin trade to a whole other level. There could have been a great possibility that the mob would have stayed out of the Policy racket if Chicago continued to support the racket like they did in the 1920s as they told Al Capone to lay off Policy, this time for some reason it slipped through the cracks. Part of the reason is because the Outfit was feeling the heat from law enforcement breathing down their necks after the Hollywood shakedown scandals that put Paul “The Waiter” Ricca behind bars and restricted the Outfit from many of their known money making schemes; therefore, it was time to move in on something new that the government decided to no longer pursue in the early 1940s, black Policy.
Giancana felt it was a perfect opportunity to make up for losses and engage in a racket that was less sought after by the laws, in the process this takedown ended up causing a lot of damage to the black community and opened the Pandora’s Box for violent super street gangs to take over the city. Because of the black communities’ many project buildings that CHA built, the super gangs were able to sell Heroin then later crack cocaine in larger drug rings because law enforcement did not want to enter these buildings where they were ganged up on and there was only one way in and one way out. Gangsters could literally make police disappear in these projects without anyone knowing or anyone wanting to talk if they wanted to live a peaceful life. The projects were a trap, a trap of violence and drugs and once dope was flooded through them, all hope was gone.
Organized crime was found in many neighborhoods as I said earlier, in areas that are now deteriorated and/or full of violent street gangs. In the Outfit days street gangs were controlled and mentored by the mob and since the mob wanted to live in peaceful neighborhoods, street gangs did not dare cause a stir. Just imagine if the Outfit had larger control of the streets in the later part of the 20th century, do you think you would see as many wild gang bangers running around shooting? Do you think little children would be getting shot left and right? Do you think violent drug addicts would be roaming the streets robbing people? These types of behaviors were not nearly as prevalent in the mob controlled days as they are now. You can go ahead and blame the day in age we live in, but there is another factor and that is the lack of control on the streets, and I do not mean control from law enforcement, I am talking about mob control.
Be it as it is that street gangs now rule Chicago but just imagine if all the past efforts to organize street gangs into organized crime elements had actually succeeded. Just imagine if all the street gangs agreed not to let their neighborhoods go to waste just like the Vice Lords agreed in the 1960s in North Lawndale, imagine if that continued, would North Lawndale look the same as today?
Many of the older gang members may be reading this stuff and may agree with me that little kids should not be killed and violence should not be rampant like it is, many of the older gang members have now reached maturity and would love an opportunity to be a part of a more organized operation that has the ability to control the youths so they can have a safer community for their children. The youths of the past had the goal of wanting to rise up to being a part of organized crime or be a part of the corrupt political machine. Groups like the 42 Gang and even the C-Notes have had these aspirations to climb that ladder one day which kept them under mob control obeying the mob wishes.
The youth in the street gangs these days do not have these aspirations of becoming organized mob figures in their own organizations, instead it is all about getting the money right now, even though the slower money made by organized crime brings more money in the long run and a good possibility of little to no prison time. Mob boss Tony Accardo can speak for that if he were still alive, in almost 70 years of Outfit involvement, Accardo never spent a single day in prison, yet he killed many men, violently, even with his baseball bat that gave him the nickname “Joe Batters,” yet he ran the Chicago Outfit from the 1940s until the 1970s and still had involvement until he died peacefully at the age of 86.
Most Outfit members died as millionaires and owned large homes or simply had money put away in large sums. Can your average 20 year old street gang member boast of that? No, because money comes and goes fast just like his freedom and his life. Even though he pulls in much faster money than the Outfit figures he brings a lot of heat on himself by committing several acts of violence and flaunting flashy items around the hood. That expensive car, that jewelry, that wad of $100 bills in his pocket and even that pistol in his trousers does not last when he ends up in a pool of blood on the pavement or ends up in a jumpsuit in the state pen. Some gang members had learned to grow up and control their violence only using it when necessary and only on other gang members instead of letting the bullets spray everywhere killing little babies as they die in their weeping mother’s arms. They also learn to raise a family and keep riches more discreet and operations discreet while they remain as quite members of the community; this is the Capone way, not gunning down children or shooting up a rival crew for one measly city corner in broad daylight. There is a reason our country has fallen in love with organized crime as several Hollywood productions have been released over the years like: The Godfather series, Scarface, Sopranos series, Boardwalk Empire series, Casino, Goodfellas etc….The world has fallen in love with the style of mobsters, the gentleman like stature, the control and the mobster ways of taking care of his family and his community.
The mobster is looked at as the good/bad guy and law abiding citizens can walk among organized crime and be safe and left alone. These days in many gang neighborhoods in Chicago you could be messed with by gang members if they just feel like it, they may make an excuse that you are wearing a certain color or they may try to say your hat is tilted the slightest then you become harassed even if you have nothing to do with gangs, this is an uneasy feeling for people and makes average people upset, in turn, that leads to more law enforcement activity in the area or may lead to more kids joining the rival gang of that one if law enforcement will do nothing. Organized crime always learned that the happier and safer they kept their neighborhood the easier it was to continue operations and the less people wanted to talk to the police about seeing anything illegal. Many of times the scene is the same thing in Chicago or the Chicago suburbs, a group of young gang members get together on their block and start getting horribly drunk and cracked out, then start getting aggressive and loud while pestering the people of the neighborhood that just want to get up and go to work every day. The drunken crew may start breaking bottles in the streets or trying to break into cars, this behavior becomes frowned upon and does not look good. Sometimes the problem does not last long when the older leadership comes out and tells them to knock it off, because that leader might be learning the Capone ways and is learning to keep the heat off. In the suburbs and certain parts of the city the police will show up when there are disturbances like this and soon want to know everything about the gang and what they are up to which then can close a drug operation and get the gang wiped out.
The Capone way is the safe way to do business. Excessive violence, drawing attention, hurting innocent people, flashing riches and excessive gang wars are the behaviors that prevent the street gangs of today from organizing themselves. One thing that is to blame for this issue of the rise of street gangs is the government’s obsession with putting down organized crime or not allowing organized crime to flourish. Billions of dollars have been spent to take down the community loved bad guy and his discreet operations while less money and time was devoted into helping street gangs in their earliest days or curbing the violence in the 1960s. Instead in the 1960s the goal was to cut off the street gangs from their ability to organize and rise above everyday street violence.
Law enforcement was focused on cutting off any funding or programs that could actually help the community as long as they cut off the funding for the illegal operations parts. True, a lot of money was being used by organizations like the Black P Stones and the Disciples for illegal endeavors but on the other side of the coin some of that money was actually helping the black community by opening legit businesses that would benefit everyone. Job training programs were also implemented by the Stones, Disciples and Vice Lords alike that were actually geared toward helping law abiding people develop the skills to find real jobs, even if Heroin was being sold in the back. It is tough whether to say if organized crime if good for the community or not but one thing we can say is there has been a lot of good that has come out of organized crime, especially when it comes to controlling the criminals.