Aug. 5: Remembering another Chicago riot

To the Editor:

I just read the recent Hyde Park Herald article about the 1919 Chicago race riot. I hope that articles like this help to educate younger generations about the negative consequences that resulted from past racial divisions and bias. But I also hope it points out the progress that has been made over the decades and at the same time stresses the need for continuing efforts to help eliminate any remaining racial divisions and bias in the areas of education, jobs, housing, etc.

Monday, Aug. 5 marked the anniversary of another tragic event in Chicago’s racial history. That was the start of the 1953 race riot at the Trumbull Park Homes. It began after the renting of a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) public housing unit at Trumbull Park Homes (then a segregated, all-white public housing development) to a black family. That eventually led to the forced resignation of Elizabeth Wood, the first executive director of the CHA. The Donald Howard family was represented by Judge George N Leighton, who was legal counsel with the Chicago branch of the NAACP at the time.

Judge Leighton met with some of the CHA public housing tenant leaders in 2012, the day before the 2012 dedication ceremony renaming the Criminal Courts Building in his honor. He discussed his involvement with the Howard family during the 1953 race riot, and how he stayed overnight with the family during several days of the rioting. The tenant leader for the CHA Trumbull Park Homes (now integrated) was in the 2012 meeting between Judge Leighton and other CHA tenant leaders.

Judge Leighton had represented the Harvey Clark family during the 1951 Cicero race riots. More people are aware of the Cicero race riot because it received much more publicity.

Another irony involving Trumbull Park is that Trumbull Park was named after Sen. Lyman Trumbull, another champion of civil rights, and one of the sponsors of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He was also the author of the nation’s first civil rights act, the 1866 Civil Rights Act.

Robert D. Whitfield,

Attorney at Law