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Commentary by Deoliver47 and Amazing Grace

Lorraine Hansberry
Lorraine Hansberry

The Hansberry's, and Housing Dreams Deferred

Most of you know of the play and more well known film version  "A Raisin in the Sun" written by Lorraine Hansberry. If you grew up in Chicago's black community, and were part of the older generation you probably knew her family.

The play's title, "A Raisin in the Sun", is taken from a poem by Langston Hughes.  

Harlem: A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

The Root had this background piece on Hansberry, the play, and its relationship to housing integration/desegregation:

The true story that inspired the play occurred in 1937 when Lorraine Hansberry’s father, the successful Chicago businessman Carl Hansberry, purchased a house restricted to whites by racial covenant in Chicago. When the family ignored the 1928 covenant that excluded blacks and bought a house there, the Hansberrys were thrust, the playwright said later, into a "hellishly hostile ‘white neighborhood’" where "howling mobs surrounded" their home. Hansberry was nearly killed when a cement slab was hurled through a window. Conditions were so dangerous that Hansberry’s mother, Nannie Perry Hansberry, patrolled the house at night with a "German luger" to protect her four children. Carl Hansberry joined forces with the NAACP to mount a legal challenge against the restrictive racial covenant, spending a small fortune in the process.

Amazinggrace: You could always see the hatred on their faces, the contempt in their tone of voice. As a child, I could not imagine what I had done to white people to have them loathe a little girl like me. I was good in school, we had a nice apartment with nice things, I was clean and well dressed and I was polite and quiet, just like I was raised to be. In their minds, I had disrupted their lives. My brownness had inconvenienced and offended them in the worse way.

A white homeowner, Anna M. Lee, complained that the Hansberrys violated the covenant. The case, known today as Hansberry v. Lee, weaved its way through the judicial system and eventually landed at the United States Supreme Court for review. Chicago alderman Earl Dickerson, a Chicago legal legend, along with a litany of outstanding black civil rights lawyers, represented the Hansberry family. The case is critically important to history for one specific reason: 14 years earlier, in 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court declared racial covenants legal in Corrigan v. Buckley. The Hansberry case offered a chance to reverse that decision.In the end, Carl Hansberry’s persistence and courage paid off. On Nov. 12, 1940, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hansberry, invalidating the racial covenant.

While the decision was decided on technical grounds and took no position on the legality of all racial covenants, the case proved to be the beginning of the end for the practice. Some other racially restricted areas in Chicago opened up to black homebuyers. Then, in 1948, the Supreme Court declared the enforcement of all racial covenants unconstitutional in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Shelley v. Kraemer.

(For a more detailed study of the Hansberry v Lee case please read
The History Behind Hansberry v Lee, by Alan R Kamp)

So here is the real house that created such frenzy in the breasts of those who wanted to keep blacks out.  Certainly not a mult-million dollar mansion.  

6140 Rhodes Avenue
The house bought by Carl Hansberry at 6140 Rhodes Avenue, Chicago

Amazinggrace: I grew up in Chicago in the 50’s and 60’s, less than 2 miles from the Hansberry home.  After the Hansberry vs. Lee decision, integration in Chicago was defined as the time between the first Black family moving into a neighborhood and the last White family moving out. "White flight" ensured segregation would be a shameful cornerstone of Chicago’s history.  The law established the illegality of racial covenants, and whites would flee urban areas for the suburbs in record numbers. When Black’s moved in, well kept lawns became a sea of "for sale" signs. The time from the beginning to the end of the "turn over" process was a living, violent hell for those with the audacity to move across the tracks.

We disagree with the last lines from the excellent piece in The Root. "The beginning of the end..."?  Not.
Oh, perhaps there are laws on the books, but the reality of housing in America is that it is still heavily racially segregated. Some of you will say..."but, but, but...I live in a 'mixed-neighborhood' or, "this is simply a 'class issue'...".

In the case of the United States, separating class and race becomes well-nigh impossible, and many middle-class blacks, who move out of the inner cities may find rapidly themselves in "brown-topias", where even their affluence does not stop white-flight.  

Deoliver47:  My parents "integrated" a middle class neighborhood in Queens, NY (Hollis-Saint Albans)in 1959. Other blacks had begun to move there, including well-known musicians like Count Basie,John Coltrane,and James Brown. Black Doctors, lawyers, teachers,  postal and city workers, bought homes in Queens, many for the first time. Crosses were burned on the lawns in neighboring Rosedale when the first black family moved in.  In the space of less than 10 years the entire area was black.  

That was the 60's.

Okay, 20 years later - the 80's.

Here's what sociologists had to say about housing and zoning:

Residential Segregation and Desegregation: Is Housing Discrimination a Relevant Sociological Issue in the Twenty-First Century?

The basic purpose of suburban zoning was to keep Them where They
belonged--Out. If They had already gotten In, then its purpose was to
confine Them to limited areas. The exact zoning identity of Them varied a bit about the country. Blacks, Latinos, and poor people always qualified. Catholics, Jews, and Orientals were targets in many places....The advocates of exclusionary zoning justified it with euphemisms and technical jargon that sometimes even provoked protection of the environment.... It was racism with a progressive, technocratic veneer....zoning gave every promise of continuing to keep many suburbs closed to all but affluent acceptable whites (Popper 1981:54-5).

Amazinggrace:  Times change, life is strange. The descendants of people that threw bottles at us, called us horrible, hateful things and defiled our property before fleeing to the suburbs now want city neighborhoods back. Why should they be stuck out in the middle of nowhere after running as far as they could to escape us? Whites are now moving back to the inner city in record numbers, young urban professionals high on the idea of "city living". And damn if Black folks aren’t buying up all those nice suburban houses and increasingly finding themselves in a segregated area once again,as well as a very long way from their jobs, church affiliations and extended family

Fast forward 20 more years to today, and this excerpt from Rich Benjamin's "Searching for Whitopia".

"Clean, Safe and High-Value" Neighborhoods Are Nice Ways of Saying "White" Without Bringing Race into It

The law does not forbid segregated or discriminating neighborhoods. It simply forbids intentional discrimination.
In twenty-first-century America, how do so many Whitopias hatch and flourish?

A few white readers may protest that their neighborhood’s appeal has nothing to do with its racial composition. The homogeneity of where they live is "irrelevant" or "coincidental," they say. But divorcing a Whitopia’s appeal from its predominantly white composition is like extracting the marshmallow from the s’more. Impossible. Each is fundamental to the other.

Whites may not move to a place simply because it teems with other white people. Rather, to many Americans, a place’s whiteness implies other qualities that are desirable. Americans associate a homogenous white neighborhood with higher property values, friendliness, orderliness, hospitability, cleanliness, safety, and comfort. These seemingly race-neutral qualities are subconsciously inseparable from race and class in many whites’ minds. Race is often used as a proxy for those neighborhood traits.

Amazinggrace: I’m proud of Chicago now, at least as far as integration; it’s come a long way for those that stopped running. There are always those whites that will choose an all white enclave as a matter of "comfort ability". But I now live in a more fully integrated Chicago than I ever thought possible. I revel in the colors, languages, religions and ethnicities of my neighborhood. West Ridge is a melting pot of everyone from everywhere. I know and have experienced the racial divide maintained in other cities throughout this country, the "white is right" syndrome is alive and well there. Here in Chicago we may eventually become the "City of Big Shoulders" in more than words. And in many cases those shoulders are holding every imaginable color, side by side. Who would have thought??

So folks, though we are hanging out on the nicely integrated cyber front porch here at Black Kos, what does the dream look like in your city?

Still deferred and drying up?

How many of us raisins live in your hood?


News and Events by Amazing Grace, Black Kos Editor

The Africans who fought in WWII The 70th anniversary of World War II is being commemorated around the world, but the contribution of one group of soldiers is almost universally ignored. How many now recall the role of more than one million African troops?

Yet they fought in the deserts of North Africa, the jungles of Burma and over the skies of Germany. A shrinking band of veterans, many now living in poverty, bitterly resent being written out of history.

For Africa, World War II began not in 1939, but in 1935.

Far out of Africa
An exhibition at the Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum about Africans in Mexico is not about race in America, or African American identity or what it means to be black in the United States. But by focusing on the particulars of African existence in Mexico, it reveals far more universal wisdom about race and identity than so much of the often rancorous "discussion" of the subject on this side of the border.

The quest to regain Egypt's antiquities  Later this month Egyptian archaeologists will travel to the Louvre Museum in Paris to collect five ancient fresco fragments stolen from a tomb in the Valley of the Kings in the 1980s, but there are many other "stolen" antiquities which they also want back, reports the BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo.

One of the first artefacts that visitors see on entering the pink neoclassical facade of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a fake.

"This is a replica of the Rosetta Stone. It is the only object in the museum that is not real," announces a tour guide, his voice echoing through the high-domed hall.


Haiti: After the storms

Last year, Haiti was devastated by four hurricanes in as many weeks, killing 1,000 people and leaving 800,000 homeless. Hundreds died in the town of Gonaives after many houses were completely submerged in water.

The last time I was here was just days after the disaster, flying into Gonaives, all I could see was water. This time things were different. The town was covered in towering piles of mud which the morning sun burned off into choking dust. "I haven't been able to go back to my home yet," one woman told me. "I can't even get inside yet because the mud around it hasn't been cleaned away. It's still full of mud inside too."
A lot of time has passed and people seem to have forgotten about this area. Yet so many families need help.

Crossing racial lines: Meeting friends they never had
Macon, Georgia (CNN) -- Bettye Webb-Hayes won't ever forget the day her son posed a question that stopped her in her tracks.

"Mom," the fourth-grader asked, "am I white?"

It was a question she had never asked her own parents. It was something you didn't talk about in the days of the segregated South -- especially when your mom was white and your father was a mix of African-American and Native American. She went to the black schools of Macon, Georgia. Now, her son was asking probing questions.

"Why would you ask me that?" she said.

"Because everybody at school calls me a honky," said the young Cordell, a light-skinned African-American.


John Goff: Explorations during Native American Heritage Month
November is Native American Heritage Month across the United States. In my column today I would like to discuss some perspectives that are preserved when Native American history is preserved.

Last April I helped Prof. Joyce Rain Anderson create a new exhibit at Bridgewater State College, south of Boston. It promoted the 2009 national broadcast in April and May of the five-episode PBS American Experience television special "We Shall Remain."

"We Shall Remain" celebrated native culture and history across America. Because Episode One ("After the Mayflower") was filmed partly here in Salem, I provided Salem materials for Bridgewater. We also prepared an exhibit promoting "We Shall Remain" at the Salem Public Library.

The Story of Their Lives, By Erasmo Guerra Historias ("stories") is a new effort by StoryCorps, a nonprofit established with the mission "to honor and celebrate one another’s lives through listening." Since 2003, the conversations of nearly 50,000 people have been recorded in 40-minute exchanges among family members or close friends, often at public "StoryBooths."

Launched earlier this fall, Historias speaks to the growing Latino presence in the American narrative, as they now represent the fastest-growing segment of the population. These stories will join the broader collection of recordings that have been aired on National Public Radio and archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
During this first year of Historias, StoryCorps plans to gather 700 individual testimonies as they go on a national tour, making stops in over 20 cities in the United States and Puerto Rico.


"Five Amazing Thing’s to Know"
The Week of November 17, 2009

Museums- Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture, Charlotte N.C. For more information...

WebsitesBlack Youth Project launches November 10. For more information....

Books- Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa, A Stone for Women’s Stories, available November 6.  For a review...

DVD’s- "Make It Funky" The Music of New Orleans. For a review...

Live JazzWallace Roney, Yoshi’s Oakland, November 20-21.  For ticket information...    



Painting by Lois Mailou Jones

Born November 3, 1905 in Boston, MA. sadly her work is better known in Paris than in the United States. Lois Jones Pierre-Noel had to deal with two strikes against her in the art world.  She was black, and female.
I honor her memory in this month of November; she was my beloved mentor when I was a young Fine Arts student at Howard University. (Deoliver47)


This Week in History

November 16
1873- William Christopher Handy, "Father of the Blues," in Florence, AL, Handy is best known for the "Memphis Blues," the first recorded Blues song (1912), and the "St. Louis Blues."

1930 - Chinua Achebe, Nigerian author (Things Fall Apart)

1963 - Zina Garrison Jackson, Houston Tx, tennis star (1988/90 Wimbledon)


Two police officers were charged with murder and one with manslaughter, on this date in 1992, in the beating death of Malice Green, a 35-year-old Black man from Detroit, MI. Green was beaten 11 days earlier in an incident similar to the Rodney King beating.

Passed On:

  1. Denver A. Smith and Leonard Douglass Brown were killed by the Baton Rouge, LA, police. This murder took place on the campus of Southern University.

November 17
Circa, November 17, 1723, African American trader and laborer Crispus Attucks was born a slave in Massachusetts, but escaped from slavery as an adult. Attucks was the first person to die in the American Revolution, and thus the first American to die for this country's freedom.
1960 - RuPaul, model/actor, San Diego CA.

1911 - The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity (the "Q’s") was founded at Howard University by Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper, and Frank Coleman.

  1. Twelve Klansmen, who fired on and killed five people at a 1979 anti-Klan rally in Greensboro, NC, were charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

November 18
1787 - Sojourner Truth, abolitionist, feminist, minister, was born in slavery in Hurley, Ulster County NY.

1936 - Don E Cherry, US jazz trumpeter

November 19
1921- Roy Campanella, legendary Brooklyn Dodgers catcher and three-time National League MVP, Philadelphia, PA.

Passed on:
1985 - Lincoln Theodore Andrew Perry, the Black actor who played "Stepin' Fetchit," died in Woodland Hills, CA.

November 20
1878 - Charles Sidney Gilpin, actor and star in Eugene Oneill's Emperor Jones,  Richmond, VA.

1910 -Pauli Murray, author and the first Black woman Episcopal Priest in the United States,  Baltimore, MD.

Passed on:
1695 -  Zumbi dos Palmares, Brazilian fugitive  slave and the last leader of the Quilombo of Palmares, a  maroon community that stood for 100 years.  He was beheaded.


  1. The nation's largest historically  black college, Howard University, was founded. As the foremost producer of African American PhDs in the country, Howard University is often called the "Black Harvard."

1865- Blacks began a nearly week-long protest convention at the Zion Church of Charleston, SC. They wanted equal rights and the repeal of the "Black Codes," which restricted the movement and freedom of freedmen.

1923 - Garrett A. Morgan patented the Traffic Signal. This three-way signal completely changed traffic control and was sold to General Electric for $40,000.

1962 - President John F. Kennedy ordered the end of racial discrimination in federally financed housing.

November 21
1784- French General Lafayette honored James Armistead,  for his actions in the Revolutionary War. Armistead was a spy who participated in the operation that surrounded British Army leader, Lord Cornwallis, and led to the British surrender.

November 22
1865 -The Mississippi legislature began enacting the "Black Codes" to restrict the movement and freedom of freedmen.

1884 -Christopher J. Perry founded the Philadelphia Tribune.

1884- Timothy Thomas Fortune began the New York Freeman, which later became the New York Age.

1930 - Elijah Muhammadfounded the Nation of Islam in Detroit, MI.

Passed on:

  1. President John F. Kennedy.


The front porch is now open.  For those of you visiting for the first time, Tuesday's Chile (is full of grace) is published each week at 3PM EST, and is an extension of the regular Friday 9:30 AM EST Black Kos community.  

Please come in, pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable, and "set a spell".  

Originally posted to Black Kos on Tue Nov 17, 2009 at 12:01 PM PST.

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