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Foreign Policy Analysis
Current Evanston housing and education inequities result from decades of city policy

Current Evanston housing and education inequities result from decades of city policy

Shorefront is an organization that documents the Afro American experience on Chicago’s suburban North Shore, includes suburbs of
Evanston north to Lake Forest with specific interest in the black communities in Evanston,
Glencoe and Lake Forest. We have a growing archives that help illustrate
the historical narrative of these communities and our center is open for public use and
research projects, and residents ask questions and use this as a base for research. We try and provide as much information as possible. And a lot of times we just don’t have the
information and we try and look for that information where possible. One of the things we ask for now are families
to bring in a copy of part of their housing deeds that show the covenants that are put in place. We did receive one so far, which basically said if you lease this out
or try and sell it to a black family or designate a family, they can lose their title to their
house. Before 1900, that sense of like a segregated
community was not apparent in Evanston. So you have families from all backgrounds
living throughout Evanston. I think I noted one time in 1900, that the
black population at the time was 737. And close to a third lived in the immediate
downtown Evanston area. But there is a mark difference or designation
where the Evanston community started — or the Evanston government started redlining and
creating segregated communities as early as 1910. People weren’t trying to get out of the area. When I grew up, Evanston was, the black community
was like an extended family, everybody knew everybody. So housing was not a priority. The concern of course, and what the city had
done, is zone the black community very high, so they could pile a lot of people in there,
not a lot of R1, R3 on up to R7 sometimes. That means more densely populated. In 1921, the city of Evanston was the first
city in Illinois to pass the zoning code. And that zoning code kind of went a little
bit hand in hand with the red lining map. So the 5th Ward and the areas that were
along the freight train line that runs just on the other side of Green Bay, from where
the Metra tracks are, is where, obviously, the lower-income neighborhood, also where
the African Americans can live — or mostly did live. And that was there in our zoning code with
zoned industrial and where you could have a trash dump. So we have now decades of redlining, decades
of zoning where the area is not invested in and not encouraged to be to have investment
within there, so redlining not only pushes people into certain a certain community, it
signals banks not to invest in that area. Banks are more likely to deny any business
loan to go in that area for development activities with the city, it becomes a harder argument
because they’ve already zoned that in a way that is not conducive to investing in that
community. “How can we effectively integrate all of our
schools and eliminate de facto segregation both negro and white in the schools, and this
means, for us at least, a redrawing of boundary lines which actually maintains the neighborhood
school concept, since our board believes in the neighborhood school concept, but at the
same time provides for integrated education for all boys and girls.” What Evanston tried to do or the school system
tried to do is try and corral as many black residents into Foster School. Sometimes getting an outlying black family
living in a block that’s predominately white, but close enough to Foster School,
where they redline that one, that one particular house out and assign that student go to Foster. Some students were out of that Foster School
district, and they were offered opportunities to test into their local school to make sure
they are at that level. So another way of also preventing some barriers
for our black students to attend certain schools. It was the 1967 election, and the school board
said they wanted to integrate, and so as a result, Foster School became King Lab, a magnet
school and white parents bussed their kids into the community, while a lot of black parents
were bussed outward. “I believe the Negro parents were sort of
misguided in the way that we were told that our children would be automatically be first
choice come the following year, which would be this September coming. And as it came down, we weren’t the first to be
chosen. This we got by word of mouth, it was, it wasn’t really written as such so that we
could get some concrete evidence that this was so.” “Well I was perfectly satisfied with the integrating
of Evanston, the school system in Evanston, and then I was satisfied with the lab school
also until I found out that my child, was not considered, or well, was not really in
the lab school.” When the school moved, it ended up closing
Foster School, where a lot of residents thought then Foster School would just re-open as a
regular neighborhood school, it was on the chopping block for closing, so the result
of that had all the students that lived in the 5th Ward bused out to five different school
zones. “With the help of the computer, we redistributed
the school population, eliminated that school as an attendance area, which left that school
as an empty school building, then we said we would create a laboratory school for experimental
purposes in that building, and allow youngsters to volunteer to enroll in that school.” It also destroyed the PTA at Foster School,
a very strong PTA. So that structure was diluted into five different
schools and black parents felt they had no voice in activities of their child at whatever
school they were bused to. And that carries over to today. Parents at King Lab found that African American
students that King Lab from grades, I believe it was four, five and six, none of the African
American students had made gains for the standardized tests, which again, for us, really highlights
bigger systemic issues. Middle- to high-income African American students
are not achieving at the rate of our middle to high white students. But when we look at the achievement gap, I
mean, this has been persistent. Several years ago, the high school really
started trying to lend a hand by offering some summer learning for their incoming freshmen,
because they were finding that so many students of color, particularly were graduating eighth
grade and not reading at an eighth grade level therefore, they were going to be behind even
starting in high school. “We don’t usually do this, but I’m going to
read this resolution, it will be as fast as possible. A resolution to commit to end structural racism
and achieve racial equity. Whereas the city of Evanston embraces its
racial diversity and seeks to continue its path to be the most livable city in America,
and whereas, city of Evanston believes that all individuals, living or visiting the city
should be treated fairly and with respect and dignity, and whereas the city of Evanston
recognizes there is an escalation of hatred, bigotry and overt racism in our country”
I think that we have to do it in Evanston. People have to see action more than just words
on a piece of paper. But I really feel passionately that it’s our role as city government to vocalize
how we’re going to move forward, and then really move forward, including our citizens. If we really want this to be the most progressive,
diverse city, we really want to, you know, meet those marks that we have for ourselves,
I think we have to get past just kind of having those words on a piece of paper, and really
taking some serious action. When we look at equity, I really feel like
we have to invest in areas where historically we have not invested. And then other neighborhoods that are already
stable will remain stable, and the city overall will be just a better place of all the citizens
feel like they’re being attended to by the
city government. “Section I. The City of Evanston acknowledges its own
history of racially motivated policies and practices.”

1 comment on “Current Evanston housing and education inequities result from decades of city policy

  1. Thank you for this important resource and documentation of the systemic racism around housing on the northshore. I am a teacher on the northshore and will be sharing this with my staff.

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