On this day in history, Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Marquette Park on Chicago’s Southwest Side to lead a diverse group of civil rights activists to protest segregated housing. They were confronted by hundreds of violent white protesters who hurled rocks, bottles and carried denigrating signs and messages.
King recalled afterward:
I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen – even in Mississippi and Alabama – mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’ve seen here in Chicago.”
In 1959, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called Chicago “the most residentially segregated large city in the nation.” King and the demonstrators had hoped to reach a real estate office near the park, and there demand that properties be rented and sold on a nondiscriminatory basis. But only a few of them made it before rioting broke out. As the Chicago Tribune reports:
At least 30 people were injured, some by a hail of bricks and bottles accompanied by racial epithets. Some counter-demonstrators were clubbed by baton-wielding police officers. More than 40 people were arrested when a crowd of whites blocked adjoining streets and cursed the police, several of whom were hurt.”
The 50th anniversary of this march will be observed with various events in Marquette Park in Chicago. You can learn more about the commemoration here.