Reinier de Graaf

The New York Review of Books - - Contents - Reinier de Graaf

Land­scapes of Hope: Na­ture and the Great Mi­gra­tion in Chicago by Brian McCam­mack High-Ris­ers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of Amer­i­can Pub­lic Hous­ing by Ben Austen

Land­scapes of Hope: Na­ture and the Great Mi­gra­tion in Chicago by Brian McCam­mack. Har­vard Univer­sity Press, 364 pp., $49.95


Cabrini-Green and the Fate of Amer­i­can Pub­lic Hous­ing by Ben Austen.

Harper, 384 pp., $27.99

If pub­lic hous­ing is the phys­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tion of a hope for so­cial progress, that hope has its own his­tor­i­cal twist in the United States. Af­ter the abo­li­tion of slav­ery in 1865, white Amer­i­cans, faced with the prospect of liv­ing with African-Amer­i­cans, opted for seg­re­ga­tion. In the south­ern United States seg­re­ga­tion was not only de facto but also de jure. Jim Crow laws, passed by lo­cal gov­ern­ments as early as the 1870s and 1880s, man­dated the seg­re­ga­tion of pub­lic fa­cil­i­ties, ed­u­ca­tion, and trans­porta­tion.

When it came to hous­ing, seg­re­ga­tion was en­forced through racially re­stric­tive covenants—bind­ing le­gal obli­ga­tions writ­ten into the deed of a prop­erty by the seller that barred African-Amer­i­cans (and other mi­nori­ties) from buy­ing, leas­ing, or us­ing it. The prac­tice was com­mon in both the south­ern and north­ern United States. Iron­i­cally, it was the Na­tional Hous­ing Act of 1934—part of Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt’s New Deal— that es­tab­lished hous­ing seg­re­ga­tion through­out the coun­try. The newly cre­ated Fed­eral Hous­ing Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Un­der­writ­ing Man­ual ex­pressly iden­ti­fies “an in­com­pat­i­ble racial el­e­ment” within neigh­bor­hoods as a li­a­bil­ity and rec­om­mends that the so­cial and racial struc­ture of neigh­bor­hoods be main­tained by re­stric­tions on el­i­gi­bil­ity for mort­gages. It wasn’t un­til the Fair Hous­ing Act of 1968 that such prac­tices were aban­doned and hous­ing seg­re­ga­tion was defini­tively banned.*

De facto racial seg­re­ga­tion in Amer­i­can cities has con­tin­ued, how­ever, es­pe­cially in pub­lic hous­ing. Nine of the ten most racially seg­re­gated Amer­i­can cities are all lo­cated in the North, the “Land of Hope” dur­ing the Great Mi­gra­tion of African-Amer­i­cans from the South be­tween 1915 and 1970. In 2010, the list was topped by Chicago, where a his­tory of racially re­stric­tive covenants had pushed African-Amer­i­cans al­most en­tirely to what be­came known as the “Black Belt,” on the city’s South Side. This seg­re­ga­tion was re­in­forced by the pub­lic hous­ing pro­gram im­ple­mented by the Chicago Hous­ing Au­thor­ity (CHA), es­tab­lished in 1937. Be­fore World War II, the agency built four projects, of which one was for blacks: the Ida B. Wells Homes, lo­cated in Bronzeville, the so­cial cen­ter of the Black Belt. Con­sist­ing of 1,662 units in a mix of row houses and apart­ment build­ings oc­cu­py­ing sev­eral city blocks, the Ida B. Wells Homes were the largest pub­lic hous­ing project in Chicago at the time, in­cor­po­rat­ing the ex­ist­ing Mad­den Park, where the in­hab­i­tants of the crowded Black Belt had been en­joy­ing a va­ri­ety of sports, open-air movies, and mu­si­cal pro­grams.

The way na­ture helped AfricanAmer­i­cans en­dure the seg­re­gated spa­ces they in­hab­ited in and around Chicago forms the sub­ject of Brian McCam­mack’s Land­scapes of Hope. The book cov­ers the pe­riod be­tween 1915 and 1940, the first phase of the Great Mi­gra­tion, which for AfricanAmer­i­cans in the North marked “the tran­si­tion away from ru­ral agri­cul­tural economies and to­ward mod­ern in­dus­trial economies.” If in the South na­ture was as­so­ci­ated with la­bor, for the in­hab­i­tants of the crowded ten­e­ments in Chicago, na­ture in­creas­ingly be­came a source of leisure in city parks, beaches, and ru­ral ar­eas nearby—in re­sorts, for­est pre­serves, and youth camps. On the one hand it re­minded African-Amer­i­cans of their homes in the South—de­spite the hard­ships they en­dured there, the land­scapes and cli­mate they left be­hind were missed by many—while on the other hand it pro­vided “a com­ple­ment to mod­ern ur­ban con­di­tions,” McCam­mack con­cludes.

Per­haps the most rep­re­sen­ta­tive “land­scape of hope” in McCam­mack’s book is Chicago’s Wash­ing­ton Park. De­signed by Fred­er­ick Law Olm­sted and Calvert Vaux and cov­er­ing one square mile, the park was com­pleted in 1881 in a neigh­bor­hood of Ger­man and Ir­ish im­mi­grants work­ing in the stock­yards and the rail­roads. In the late 1910s the up­surge in the con­struc­tion of cheap apart­ments north of the park at­tracted many African-Amer­i­cans, and by the 1920s they be­came its pri­mary users, with Sun­day pic­nics, boat­ing, baseball, and tennis in sum­mer­time, and skat­ing on the frozen la­goon in the win­ter. How­ever, their in­creas­ing pres­ence in Wash­ing­ton Park was met with hos­til­ity and of­ten vi­o­lence by whites, as McCam­mack ex­plains:

It was most of­ten African Amer­i­cans, not whites, who stood to be beaten or raped by gangs of young white men…; even cou­ples sim­ply sit­ting on park benches to­gether were tar­geted, vic­tims of racist whites who re­sented the park’s racial tran­si­tion in the Great Mi­gra­tion era.

He also cites The Chicago De­fender— the most im­por­tant news­pa­per ad­vo­cat­ing African-Amer­i­can rights at the time—which re­ported on at­tacks car­ried out by “young hood­lums.” Pub­lic space—this time the beach at Lake Michi­gan—was also the scene of vi­o­lence in 1919. The killing of a seven­teen-year-old boy for tres­pass­ing the imag­i­nary line that di­vided blacks and whites at the beach sparked a race riot that lasted five days and re­sulted in thirty-eight deaths (twenty-three blacks and fif­teen whites) and five hun­dred peo­ple in­jured.

Wash­ing­ton Park was not only an in­ter­ra­cial bat­tle­ground but also a place of in­trara­cial con­fronta­tions. The be­hav­ior of African-Amer­i­cans in pub­lic was of­ten the sub­ject of crit­i­cism from

re­form­ers in the black elite. The same De­fender that ad­vo­cated AfricanAmer­i­cans’ rights also dis­ap­proved of “open-air per­for­mances of min­strelsy” in Wash­ing­ton Park and pub­lic bap­tism in Lake Michi­gan—prac­tices from south­ern cul­ture that were con­sid­ered em­bar­rass­ing in the North. The De­fender tar­geted Wash­ing­ton Park in par­tic­u­lar for its Sun­day School Baseball League games, ru­ined by “dis­grace­ful and unchris­tian fight[s],” and tennis played by postal work­ers and din­ing-car wait­ers wear­ing their uni­form or no top shirt. “Tennis is strictly a gen­tle­man’s game,” pro­claimed an ed­i­to­rial in 1922, and “no gen­tle­man of any breed­ing will ap­pear on any tennis court with­out a top shirt.”

By 1929, when the Great De­pres­sion started, Wash­ing­ton Park was used ex­clu­sively by the black com­mu­nity. On an Au­gust day in 1930, 12,000 peo­ple gath­ered there for an enor­mous pic­nic and pa­rade to cel­e­brate Bud Bil­liken, a fic­tional char­ac­ter stand­ing for the pride and op­ti­mism of the black com­mu­nity, who had been cre­ated in 1921 by Robert S. Ab­bott, the founder and pub­lisher of the De­fender. It was no co­in­ci­dence, McCam­mack points out, that this event was ini­ti­ated at a time when the black elite looked to main­tain the co­he­sion of the com­mu­nity, which had been se­verely hit by the on­set of the De­pres­sion. AfricanAmer­i­cans were of­ten the first to be laid off from their jobs, since most of them worked in in­dus­tries vul­ner­a­ble to the eco­nomic cri­sis. They lost even the jobs that were tra­di­tion­ally given to AfricanAmer­i­cans, such as porter, el­e­va­tor op­er­a­tor, and jan­i­tor, so that by 1932 the unem­ploy­ment rate of African-Amer­i­cans had reached 50 per­cent, while for whites it was 30 per­cent. This also af­fected the black up­per classes, whose busi­nesses de­pended on the earn­ings of the black lower classes. By the end of the month that the first Bud Bil­liken pa­rade took place, all the banks in the Black Belt were closed.

Dur­ing this tu­mul­tuous decade the African-Amer­i­can work­ing class could count on lit­tle sup­port in de­fend­ing its rights. One voice that did protest against the evic­tions of un­em­ployed African-Amer­i­cans who could no longer pay their rent was that of the Com­mu­nist Party of the United States, es­tab­lished in Chicago in 1919. Even though black Chicagoans counted for a small share of the to­tal mem­bers in the city (412 at its peak in 1931), the party sym­pa­thized with African-Amer­i­cans, see­ing them as “true pro­le­tar­i­ans, as­so­ci­ated with es­sen­tial heavy in­dus­try.” For their ral­lies, which could mo­bi­lize tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, the party also chose Wash­ing­ton Park. At a time when few black Chicagoans could af­ford to spend money on en­ter­tain­ment, Wash­ing­ton Park was the most prom­i­nent free pub­lic space for peo­ple of color. “What had been vi­o­lently con­tested racial space dur­ing the Great Mi­gra­tion had be­come vir­tu­ally un­con­tested African Amer­i­can space dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion,” writes McCam­mack.

An­other “land­scape of hope” that thrived be­cause of seg­re­ga­tion was Idlewild, the re­sort es­tab­lished in 1916 in Michi­gan by a group of white de­vel­op­ers—two of them for­mer mem­bers of the Ku Klux Klan—look­ing to at­tract the African-Amer­i­can up­per class. Af­flu­ent African-Amer­i­cans had the means and the de­sire to travel for leisure, but the white re­sorts around Chicago were as in­ac­ces­si­ble to them as they were to the African-Amer­i­can work­ing class. Black en­trepreneurs founded black re­sorts on the East Coast start­ing in the 1890s; their pop­u­lar­ity, McCam­mack sug­gests, in­spired white de­vel­op­ers to cre­ate Idlewild. Within a decade of its open­ing, thou­sands of plots were sold and hun­dreds of va­ca­tion homes were built by vis­i­tors from Chicago and the en­tire Mid­west. Most of the Chicago black elite were among the buy­ers: Jesse Binga, the founder of the most im­por­tant bank serv­ing blacks in Chicago; J.C. Austin, the leader of the Pil­grim Bap­tist Church; Os­car de Priest, Chicago’s first black al­der­man; and Robert Ab­bott, the pub­lisher of the De­fender. Yet to the vast ma­jor­ity of AfricanAmer­i­cans Idlewild re­mained an in­ac­ces­si­ble “land­scape of hope.” McCam­mack’s book ends in 1940, so he does not men­tion that af­ter seg­re­ga­tion was banned by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 Idlewild’s clien­tele moved to re­sorts pre­vi­ously fre­quented by whites, leav­ing Amer­ica’s “Black Eden” to sink into de­cay.


Land­scapes of Hope al­ludes to the ef­fect of seg­re­ga­tion on gal­va­niz­ing the black com­mu­nity, Ben Austen’s HighRis­ers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of Amer­i­can Pub­lic Hous­ing high­lights its cor­ro­sive ef­fect and the demise of pub­lic hous­ing. How did places wel­comed with such en­thu­si­asm by their ini­tial in­hab­i­tants turn into the most em­blem­atic ex­am­ples of gang vi­o­lence in the United States? How was it that de­spite this stigma, Cabrini-Green sur­vived un­til 2011, when it was fi­nally torn down?

The first phase of the project was com­pleted in 1942, one year af­ter the United States en­tered World War II, and con­sisted of 586 units di­vided into fifty-four two- and three-story row houses, named af­ter an Ital­ian-Amer­i­can nun, Francesca Cabrini, the first Amer­i­can to be can­on­ized. The project re­placed the no­to­ri­ously vi­o­lent Lit­tle Hell, a neigh­bor­hood on Chicago’s Near North Side where the Ital­ian and Ir­ish mafias were born, and was meant to house mostly whites (75 per­cent). More homes were built af­ter the war: in 1958, the Cabrini Homes Ex­ten­sion was com­pleted (1,925 units), fol­lowed by the Green Homes in 1962 (1,096 units), named to honor Wil­liam Green, a prom­i­nent Chicago union leader.

Based on the mod­ernist ur­ban de­sign pop­u­lar at the time, the two post­war projects were tow­ers in a park. For the Cabrini Homes Ex­ten­sion, six­teen tow­ers of a max­i­mum of nine and six­teen sto­ries were pro­posed. Due to bud­get cuts, fif­teen tow­ers of seven, ten, and nine­teen sto­ries were built in­stead. To re­duce costs even more, they had a nearly iden­ti­cal de­sign: red bricks framed by an ex­posed white con­crete struc­ture, which earned them the nick­name “the Reds.” The project was praised for us­ing only 13 per­cent of the site, leav­ing the rest for plazas and lawns. The Green Homes added eight more tow­ers of fif­teen and six­teen sto­ries, fin­ished with beige con­crete sec­tion­als and ex­posed con­crete frames. They came to be known as “the Whites.” The three-, four-, and five-bed­room apart­ments, equipped with a re­frig­er­a­tor, stove, and hot and cold wa­ter, were a far cry from the crowded ten­e­ments they re­placed, which had shared toi­lets and no run­ning wa­ter or elec­tric­ity.

With the im­prove­ment of liv­ing con­di­tions, the city also hoped to erad­i­cate the crime that was plagu­ing the slums. But de­spite the city’s ex­pec­ta­tions, crime re­turned to the for­mer Lit­tle Hell area. Much of the blame has been at­trib­uted to the ar­chi­tec­ture of the build­ings them­selves. Their sheer height cou­pled with poor main­te­nance proved a recipe for dis­as­ter. Stair­cases with no direct light turned dark as soon as light bulbs broke or were stolen. Cor­ri­dors were filled with lit­ter when garbage chutes got clogged. El­e­va­tors shut down af­ter chil­dren climbed on top of the cars. Top-floor apart­ments suf­fered from leak­age from the poorly con­structed flat roofs. And from the safety of the top floors, gang-af­fil­i­ated snipers shot ran­domly at passersby, in­clud­ing po­lice of­fi­cers.

Still, in the end the prob­lem was so­cial. When the Cabrini Homes were com­pleted, the com­plex’s res­i­dents were 80 per­cent white and 20 per­cent black. The white fam­i­lies that lived there were un­com­fort­able in a mixed com­mu­nity and asked the CHA to group and seg­re­gate the AfricanAmer­i­can renters in­side the com­plex. Even the lo­cal priest Luigi Gi­ambas­tiani (who had sug­gested that the pub­lic hous­ing com­plex be named af­ter Mother Francesca Cabrini) ex­pressed his in­dig­na­tion that white and black peo­ple had to live to­gether: “This is be­ing re­sented by all and I must add, in or­der to be can­did with you, that I don’t like it ei­ther.”

Af­ter the Cabrini Homes Ex­ten­sion was built, the de­mo­graph­ics of the com­plex re­versed: it be­came 80 per­cent black and 20 per­cent white. Since AfricanAmer­i­can fam­i­lies were gen­er­ally poorer, they had pri­or­ity in re­ceiv­ing an apart­ment at Cabrini-Green. White fam­i­lies left at the first op­por­tu­nity. Like Wash­ing­ton Park, Cabrini-Green be­came an area ex­clu­sively for African-Amer­i­cans, seg­re­gated from the white parts of the city. The fact that sin­gle par­ents were el­i­gi­ble for ben­e­fits caused the men to live away from their fam­i­lies and move back to the South Side in search of work, leav­ing women to take care of chil­dren (of­ten more than ten) on their own. For men who had jobs and stayed with their fam­i­lies, rents were in­creased to the point that they could no longer af­ford to live in pub­lic hous­ing. In the late 1960s, out of the 20,000 peo­ple that lived at Cabrini-Green, 14,000 were un­der seven­teen. Soon their out­door games were turn­ing into vi­o­lent ter­ri­to­rial dis­putes, while some joined gangs. The de­cay­ing Cabrini-Green tow­ers re­flected the re­al­ity of pub­lic hous­ing through­out Chicago but not the en­tire coun­try, since, as Austen points out, three quar­ters of the pub­lic hous­ing stock in the United States was not high-rise.

The story of Cabrini-Green is very much like that of the in­fa­mous Pruit­tI­goe projects in St. Louis, which also de­clined into poverty and crime. So why did it take so long for it to be torn down, as Pruitt-Igoe had been in the early 1970s? “The idea of de­mol­ish­ing Cabrini-Green seemed like a po­lit­i­cal as well as a prac­ti­cal im­pos­si­bil­ity,” Austen ex­plains. Chicago’s of­fi­cials could not find a way to house its 15,000 poor black res­i­dents. In­stead, the city poured money into hasty ren­o­va­tions, then de­clared them suc­cess­ful by tweak­ing statis­tics about crime and em­ploy­ment. Again, lack of main­te­nance made these ef­forts fu­tile. With the com­plex fought over by Chicago’s most feared gangs—the Black Dis­ci­ples and the Gang­ster Dis­ci­ples, the Vice Lords, and the Co­bra Stones— cross­ing the space be­tween the tow­ers be­came a game of Rus­sian roulette. “A thou­sand win­dows ris­ing up, and in any one of them a heed­less seven­teen-yearold with a ri­fle could smudge you out as he would an ant,” writes Austen. El­derly ten­ants moved out of Cabrini-Green and poorer ten­ants, of­ten ex-con­victs, came in­stead. By the 1970s three quar­ters of the house­holds were on wel­fare and had a sin­gle par­ent. With­out any job prospects nearby and con­fined to the com­plex by the

po­lice, they were of­ten left with the choice of ei­ther con­sum­ing or sell­ing drugs—a cu­ri­ous kind of cir­cu­lar econ­omy. Time and again, po­lice were sent in to sweep the build­ings in search of guns and drugs. “We have to have a war here, and we have to go af­ter them the same way they go af­ter in­no­cent peo­ple,” de­clared Richard M. Da­ley, the long­est-serv­ing Chicago mayor, af­ter seven-year-old Dantrell Davis was shot dead in front of his school. But guns and drugs would al­ways make their way back to CabriniGreen, and with ev­ery raid fewer were con­fis­cated. As with the ren­o­va­tions, the raids ex­hausted the CHA’s bud­get. One sin­gle sweep, Austen es­ti­mates, cost up to $175,000.

Still, Austen con­tends that life at Cabrini-Green wasn’t as gloomy as the press made Amer­i­cans be­lieve. De­spite the crime, some ap­par­ently loved liv­ing there: adults, be­cause they could rely on their neigh­bors and had their fam­ily around; teenagers, be­cause they could so­cial­ize freely and make easy money (from il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties). Austen’s book is full of such sto­ries. We read about Dolores Wil­son, mother of five, who started a pen-pal pro­gram for prison in­mates and co­or­di­nated a res­i­dents’ ini­tia­tive to re­ha­bil­i­tate and man­age their tower, all while work­ing full-time at the city wa­ter de­part­ment. We read about Annie Ricks, mother of thirteen, who walked seven miles through snow on a De­cem­ber morn­ing to CabriniGreen and didn’t leave un­til she got an apart­ment. Twenty-one years later, also on a cold De­cem­ber day, Annie was the fi­nal res­i­dent to leave CabriniGreen. We read about J.R. Flem­ing, an African-Amer­i­can who grew up in the sub­urbs and moved to CabriniGreen to es­cape white per­se­cu­tion. Giv­ing up the prospect of be­com­ing a foot­ball player, he sur­vived by boot­leg­ging Chicago Bulls T-shirts and mu­sic, even­tu­ally be­com­ing an antievic­tion ac­tivist.

These peo­ple hardly made the head­lines. In­stead, Cabrini-Green was used as a text­book case of the wel­fare state’s fail­ings. In calls for the elim­i­na­tion of pub­lic hous­ing and ar­gu­ments for the cure-all power of the mar­ket econ­omy, it was con­ve­niently over­looked that only a quar­ter of pub­lic hous­ing in the United States was in the prob­lem­prone high-rises. Cabrini-Green’s fate was even­tu­ally sealed dur­ing the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion. Its high-rises were to be re­placed with “hu­man-scale” mixed-in­come de­vel­op­ments like those in other cities. A win-win sit­u­a­tion, sup­pos­edly: the in­flux of more af­flu­ent res­i­dents to the new build­ings would break the con­cen­tra­tion of poverty, while the pub­licly as­sisted res­i­dents would ben­e­fit from bet­ter-qual­ity hous­ing. Sit­u­ated near the city cen­ter—un­like other pub­lic hous­ing com­plexes built later—Cabrini-Green’s land was a not-to-be-missed op­por­tu­nity for real es­tate in­vest­ment. The two thirds of the for­mer in­hab­i­tants who had to be re­lo­cated would get vouch­ers to help them rent mar­ket-rate hous­ing.

Re­al­ity quickly de­mys­ti­fied the bless­ings of the mixed-in­come de­vel­op­ment ap­proach. For the “lucky” pub­lic hous­ing fam­i­lies who moved to the new mixed-in­come de­vel­op­ment, life was far from easy. The project, named Park­side of Old Town, cov­ered eigh­teen of the for­mer sev­enty acres of Cabrini-Green and com­prised 30 per­cent pub­lic hous­ing, 20 per­cent af­ford­able hous­ing, and 50 per­cent mar­ket-price hous­ing. Con­struc­tion was planned in two phases. In 2006, two years be­fore com­ple­tion, the devel­oper sold 70 per­cent of the mar­ket-price hous­ing units, with con­dos start­ing at $300,000 and town­houses at $500,000. With the money from the pre­sales, the devel­oper built the en­tire first phase at once. Some peo­ple bought more than one apart­ment, hop­ing to make a profit from re­sale.

Then came the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis. “Stuck with their bum mort­gages . . . the own­ers came to re­sent the peo­ple who were ‘liv­ing for free’ be­side them in nearly iden­ti­cal apart­ments,” Austen ex­plains. Wor­ried that their prop­er­ties would de­pre­ci­ate even more, the own­ers (who could form owner as­so­ci­a­tions, while the pub­lic hous­ing fam­i­lies could not form ten­ant coun­cils) adopted all sorts of reg­u­la­tions, go­ing as far as to pro­pose pro­hibit­ing pa­ja­mas in pub­lic spa­ces and ban­ning gar­den gnomes. The CHA had its re­stric­tions, too. If one mem­ber of a fam­ily ran into trou­ble with the po­lice (even if not con­victed), the en­tire fam­ily could be evicted. “You had to choose be­tween your daugh­ter who was caught smok­ing weed and a roof over your head,” Austen writes.

Most re­lo­cated fam­i­lies ended up in ar­eas that were pre­dom­i­nantly African-Amer­i­can and over­whelm­ingly poor, such as the South Shore, which ac­com­mo­dated more re­lo­cated fam­i­lies than any other neigh­bor­hood in the city. There they faced ex­treme hos­til­ity from the lo­cals, who blamed them for the soar­ing crime rates through­out the city. In 2012, one year af­ter the last Cabrini-Green tower was de­mol­ished, Chicago ex­pe­ri­enced the high­est mur­der rate in the coun­try (higher than New York and Los An­ge­les com­bined) and the high­est in the city since the 1990s, when sen­tences for vi­o­lent crimes were al­most dou­bled by the Vi­o­lent Crime Con­trol and Law En­force­ment Act of 1994. The re­lo­ca­tions, Austen writes, “didn’t so much break up con­cen­tra­tions of poverty as move them else­where, mak­ing them less vis­i­ble to the rest of the city.” Thomas Sul­li­van, a for­mer US at­tor­ney mon­i­tor­ing the CHA’s Plan of Trans­for­ma­tion, said, “The ver­ti­cal ghet­toes from which the fam­i­lies are be­ing moved are be­ing re­placed with hor­i­zon­tal ghet­toes.” High-Ris­ers is in al­most ev­ery re­spect the op­po­site of Land­scapes of Hope. The pas­sages about CabriniGreen res­i­dents, in­ter­spersed among chap­ters about the his­tory of the projects, take the reader into the drama of life in African-Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties. Un­like McCam­mack, whose book is ex­clu­sively based on dili­gent archival re­search (out of 350 pages, one hun­dred are end­notes), Austen com­bines archival work with em­pir­i­cal re­search. The hun­dreds of hours he spent in­ter­view­ing the res­i­dents of Cabrini-Green of­ten give his prose the depth of a novel. The story of Cabrini-Green makes one aware of a cu­ri­ous para­dox. What ap­plies to the op­ti­mistic cre­ation of Cabrini-Green ap­plies ev­ery bit as much to its de­mo­li­tion: both serve as un­com­fort­able re­minders that the dream of equal­ity—even fifty years af­ter the civil rights move­ment—is far from avail­able to all Amer­i­cans.

Danc­ing at a house party, Cabrini-Green, Chicago, 1988; pho­to­graph by Marc PoKemp­ner from the ‘Chang­ing Chicago’ doc­u­men­tary project

Har­vey and Michael Reynolds with their younger brother in their Cabrini-Green apart­ment af­ter their seven-year-old friend Dantrell Davis was killed by a sniper as he walked to school, 1992

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