The Origins of the Dual CityHousing, Race, and Redevelopment in Twentieth-Century Chicago

The Origins of the Dual CityHousing, Race, and Redevelopment in Twentieth-Century Chicago

Joel Rast

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226661445

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Cities today are celebrated for their diversity, but they are also places of steep inequalities, including growing divides between middle- and upper-class neighborhoods and areas of extreme disadvantage. Chicago epitomizes this pattern, with its upscale, gentrified neighborhoods near downtown and along the lakefront, and its mostly Black, impoverished communities on the South and West Sides. More than ever, Chicago is a dual city, a condition that many of its residents and political leaders have come to take for granted. In The Origins of the Dual City, Joel Rast reveals today’s tacit acceptance of rising urban inequality as a stark departure from the past. For much of the twentieth century, civic leaders, convinced that the city’s survival depended on the elimination of slums and blight, made this goal a key policy priority. More recently, however, this attitude has shifted in favor of a much different approach aimed at managing economically distressed areas and mitigating their most harmful effects, while promoting downtown development and gentrification of select neighborhoods. The book shows how changing ideas about how problems of inequality should best be addressed shaped the behavior of the political and economic elites who led the city’s revitalization efforts.