50 Years Later, Fair Housing Movement on North Shore Marches On

Fifty years ago, a number of white residents on the North Shore, inspired by civil rights movements such as Freedom Summer and marching in Selma, realized they'd been fighting for integration and equal rights in the South, but they didn't have those rights at home.

They started a local grassroots movement called the North Shore Summer Project, and their work caught the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

A news release issued by the North Shore Summer Project in June 1965 reads in part:

"Hundreds of people are being discriminated against every day on our North Shore," said Mrs. Clinton Dornfeld, 2027 Grove, Glenview, today. "And the public has a right to know just how deeply this undemocratic system is entrenced [sic] in our communities."

Read the full release.

On July 25, 1965, Dr. King spoke to a crowd of thousands on the Winnetka Village Green about fair and equal housing.

This summer, Winnetka-based equal-housing rights organization Open Communities – founded by descendants of the North Shore Summer Project – commemorates the movement that began decades ago with a series called the 2015 Justice Project: The March Continues.

Events kick off with a gathering Sunday, July 26 on the Winnetka Village Green.

Chicago Tonight’s Brandis Friedman gives us a closer look at the movement – then and now – to diversify the North Shore, and talks with some residents who helped bring attention to housing discrimination in the area, including David James, 91, a Tuskegee Airman who moved his family to Winnetka in 1967 and was the first African-American to buy a house in the village.

  • David James, the first African-American to buy a house in Winnetka.

    David James, the first African-American to buy a house in Winnetka.

  • Winnetka house on Spruce Street in 1956; David James bought it in 1967.

    Winnetka house on Spruce Street in 1956; David James bought it in 1967.

  • Spruce Street home in 2004, before it was torn down.

    Spruce Street home in 2004, before it was torn down.

  • A map of North Shore communities.

    A map of North Shore communities.


In this Chicago Stories episode, host John Callaway introduces Rich Samuels' report on a group of North Shore residents who brought the civil rights movement to their own neighborhood.