As late as 1940, all but three Chicago neighborhoods had white majority populations. The exceptions were Douglas, Grand Boulevard and Washington Park, the heart of what was known as the Black Belt, the South Side ghetto to which African-Americans were confined.
White Flight, By The Numbers
After World War II, whites began moving to the suburbs, and the restrictive covenants that had prohibited blacks from living in most neighborhoods were struck down by the courts. By 1950, the Black Belt had expanded to Douglas, the Near South Side and Fuller Park. By 1980, it was no longer a belt. It was a crescent encompassing most of the city’s West and South sides, from Madison and Central to 135th and State.
This was not integration. As the old saying goes, “Integration is the period between the arrival of the first black and the departure of the last white.”
This was total ethnic succession. In one generation, a third of the city’s community areas went from monolithically white to monolithically black. Today, only 21 neighborhoods have white majorities, and only 12 have white populations exceeding the national average of 63 percent.
(This chart shows the demographics of the city’s neighborhoods across the decades.)
That’s not what’s striking, though.As the nation has become more diverse, so has the city.
What’s most striking about Chicago’s pattern of racial distribution is the almost total absence of whites in black neighborhoods. Even the city’s whitest neighborhoods -- Mount Greenwood and Lincoln Park -- have black populations of 4.7 percent and 4.9 percent, respectively. But of the 28 neighborhoods with black majorities, most have white populations under 2 percent. The absolute most racially polarized neighborhood in Chicago is Englewood, which is 98.5 percent black, 0.6 percent white and 0.4 percent Latino. Of Englewood’s 35,186 residents, 34,658 are black, 211 are white and 141 are Latino. In the 1950s, Englewood was mostly German, Swedish and Irish. They’ve all gone, leaving only a Lutheran church.
From 1960 to 1980, Englewood’s white population “plummeted from 51,583 to 818,” according to the Chicago Reporter’s history of the neighborhood. Not even ethnic cleansing in the Balkans achieved the levels of turnover that white flight in Chicago did.
However, there is hope in a few places. The black majority neighborhood with the highest percentage of whites is Morgan Park, which is 54.8 percent black and 37.2 percent white. The least segregated -- that is, the neighborhood where the dominant ethnic group claims the smallest proportion of residents -- is Rogers Park, which is 38.2 percent white, 26.4 percent black, 25.7 percent Latino, and 6.4 percent Asians.
White flight has ended in Chicago. In both the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the non-Hispanic white population was 31 percent. But segregation hasn’t.