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Social Studies

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Table of Contents > Chapter 7

Lower West Side (continued)

Little Village
Because of its stability as a residential area, Little Village has attracted black as well as Mexican families. Beginning in the early 1960s, blacks moved into the neighborhood from North Lawndale. In the 1950s the area around Douglas Park experienced rapid racial change from a Jewish community to a black neighborhood (See Fig. 1). Primarily a district of apartment buildings. North Lawndale soon became one of the most densely populated black districts in the city. As a result of the riots which occurred following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in 1968, North Lawndale lost a large portion of its local businesses.

According to the 1980 census, Mexicans accounted for two-thirds of Little Village's 75,000 residents. On the whole, families of Spanish origin were more dispersed in the community than the 6,500 blacks who lived in the area. By and large, the transition from an Eastern European neighborhood to a predominantly Hispanic one has been peaceful.

Historically, the Lower West Side was divided into ethnic communities which supported their own churches, fraternal and social institutions, and newspapers. While Bohemians, Poles, and Slovenes lived in the same area, they shared few common institutions. Although Mexicans form the largest group on the Lower West Side and predominate in the area's sixteen Catholic parishes, the tradition of separate ethnic institutions persists. The General Mihailovich Veterans Group, for example, continues to meet in the old Masonic hall at 2300 S. Millard, and the Serbian Orthodox Church of St. Nikola is still located at 2754 S. Central Park. While many former Protestant congregations are now Spanish-speaking Pentecostal churches, a small number of them have become black institutions. The original Fowler Methodist Episcopal Church at 2255 S. Millard, for example, is now the Greater Zion Hill M.B. Church.

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Figure 1: Homan Avenue south from Ogden Avenue, c. 1909. 

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