The Chicago Freedom Movement: An In-Depth Look at One of the Biggest Movements in the North and Its Relevance Today (by Elena Kovachevich)


  1. Key Ideas and Details
    1. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source: provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas
    1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole
  2. Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
    1. Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources
    1. Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem
  3. Craft and Structure
    1. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including, analyzing how an author uses and refines the meaning of a key term over the course of a text
  4. 11.11 Students analyze the major social problems and domestic policy issues in contemporary American Society
    1. Analyze the persistence of poverty and how different analyses of this issue influence welfare reform, health insurance reform, and property rights advocates.


The purpose of this lesson is for the students to gain a better understanding of civil rights movements outside of the Southern Hemisphere of the U.S. Students will take notes of the practices of the civil rights movement, the people involved, and learn more about subtle discriminatory policies in metropolitan areas within a specific time period in history. Using a variety of pre-prepared sources, students will strive to answer one of the main questions: What were some of the problems that black people faced in Chicago that catalyzed the movement? What were some of the proposals that the program defined to solve the problems previously listed? This background knowledge will help them prepare for the final essay at the end of the study period. Other questions will be asked along the way to help students start to think about the final essay question.

Once sufficient background knowledge of this aspect of history is gained, the students will then be asked to relate the events of the past to the situations in the present. With a strong background on the movement, in unison with learning the Fair Housing Project learning activity, students will be asked to answer the final question that the lesson has been leading up to: Was the Chicago Freedom Movement successful in its plans to create a higher standard of living in Chicago’s metropolitan areas? Through this, they will be able to critically think about the implications of institutionalized racism in their surroundings and learn about the effect of past civil rights movements in today’s present.


Students will analyze different sources related to the Chicago freedom movement in order to craft a better understanding of subtle discriminatory/segregation practices within metropolitan areas that were otherwise outwardly considered “liberal”.



  1. What were some of the problems that black people faced in Chicago that catalyzed the movement? What were some of the proposals that the program defined to solve the problems previously listed?
  2. Who was targeted to be involved in the movement and what was their importance?
  3. What were the three proposed phases of the Chicago plan and what were they designed to do?
  4. What is the Fair Housing Act? What was it supposed to solve and was it successful?
  5. Looking at Chicago in the present day, is it safe to say that the Chicago Freedom Movement was successful in its plans to create a higher standard of living in Chicago’s metropolitan areas? Use examples from handouts/class notes/outside resources to support your answer.



  • Slums – a densely populated usually urban area marked by crowding, run-down housing, poverty, and social disorganization[1]
  • Fair Housing Act – protects people from discrimination when they are renting or buying a home, getting a mortgage, seeking housing assistance, or engaging in other housing-related activities. [2]
  • Ghettos – a quarter of a city in which members of a minority group live especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure[3]
  • SCLC – established in 1957 with the goal of redeeming “the Soul of America” through nonviolent resistance. Coordinated the actions of local protest groups throughout the South and beyond. People involved in the group trained local communities in the philosophy of Christian nonviolence by conducting leadership training programs and opening citizenship schools. Through its affiliation with churches and its advocacy of nonviolence, SCLC sought to frame the struggle for civil rights in moral terms.[4]


After the civil war, the lasting effects of slavery was prominent throughout the United States; most notably, in the southern region. The South became known as having more confederate tendencies, implementing different segregation policies to separate the blacks and the whites. The fight to abolish these discriminatory laws and practices became the core of the civil rights movement in the South. However, even after the movement successfully abolished many of the unconstitutional policies of the Southern states, there were still many problems to be found in other areas of America. Many black Americans were still discriminated against in subtle ways across the states. Metropolitan areas notably forced ethnic groups into certain neighborhoods that were deemed “feasible” for the lower class, people of color. These slums created by unfair housing practices was the rallying subject of the Chicago Freedom movement.

Stated as being one of the most prolific civil rights movements in the north, the Chicago Freedom Movement happened between 1965 and 1966 and focused on eradicating segregated housing/slums in the Chicago-land area. While it’s root cause was to fight for equal accessibility to housing in the Chicago-land area, the movement also demanded other aspects of the neighborhoods to be rectified, including: quality education, transportation, job access, fair chance for income and employment, health, fair trials, community development projects, a higher quality of life, etc[5]. The purpose of the other proposals was to increase the chances that black people could have access to a better quality of life then what the city offered to them at the time. Additionally, Chicago was known, at the time, to be one of the most segregated cities in America. Due to this notoriety, Dr. King and other civil rights leaders chose to make the city the heart of the movement. Dr. King was one of the most notable activists within the movement and headed the construction of the demands of the group. Nonviolent protest tactics were utilized, but protesters faced violent opposition (like ones in the South) when they picketed in white neighborhoods. For the duration of this lesson, we will learn about the factors that catalyzed the movement, who was involved and why, what the movement sought to rectify and how, what the Fair Housing Act is, and the effects of the movement on the present day.



Day 1

  1. Ask the kids to write down everything they know about Martin Luther King Jr., The Fair Housing Act, and any Civil rights movements in the north. Once complete, the kids will compare their answers for a bit.
  2. Hand out the Program of the Chicago Freedom Movement & ask the kids to read the full program looking at specific points:  who was involved, the three phases, the problems that black people faced specifically defined in the reading, and what the plan was supposed to accomplish.
  3. Split the kids up into groups (3-4) to discuss the reading. The groups will be given one of the points to sum up for the class, using their notes and the reading.
  4. Bring the class back into a whole group discussion to talk about what each group came up with and present their answers for the rest.
  5. Allow time for questions
  6. For homework, the students will read from Martin Luther King Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice to gain a background about Dr. King’s political background and his ideology about fair housing during the early sixties leading up to the Chicago Freedom Movement. Students will come prepared in class tomorrow to present three to five questions about the reading in preparation for a Socratic seminar with textual evidence.

Day 2

  1. Class discussion on what the kids read the night before. Make room for questions before splitting the kids into groups of 3-5 to discuss their prepared questions
  2. Open the floor to everyone in the class to throw out their questions, leave room for class discussion
  3. For homework, hand out both the Chicago plan and Summit agreement document for the kids to read. Compare and contrast the demands of the Chicago Plan vs the agreement that was made with the city of Chicago. Did the agreement include everything that the Chicago Plan proposed? Why do you think some proposals were left out?

Day 3

  1. Students will discuss their notes with their neighbor during the beginning of class. Leave some room for student lead discussion specifically about the question “Why were some points left out?” Collect students notes
  2. Ask kids to take out phones/laptops and search for the fair housing act website (write on board if needed) to read about what it is and what it does.
  3. In groups, have the kids create “The most accessible house” and present their design at the end of class. The house/condo/apartment must meet all the requirements stated in the Fair Housing Act. Drawings/designs of the project must be included. Notes about their design should explain why their house is designed this way, which aspects meet the specified requirements, and other aspects of the house that may not be physical. If more time needed, project will be due tomorrow in class.
  4. Students will start to think of examples (either in their own lives or research) about areas where it seems as if the Fair Housing Act does/does not apply (side note: specifically looking at ghettos or slums, maybe even the city that they live in. Some cities, like Evanston, IL, exhibit discriminatory tendencies where a lot of upper class, white civilians live close to the lake, in giant houses near great schools while a lot of lower class people of color live near the Chicagoland area which is the more “dangerous”, “less pretty” side of town.)

Day 4

  1. Start the class with the question: In the present day, do you believe that the Chicago Freedom Movement successfully accomplish its goal? (students should have thought of some examples; this is the time to share in class)
  2. Watch Video “1989 Special Report: Chicago Gangland and Children At War
  3. Get initial reactions to the video, have a group talk about their research or experiences.
  4. Pass out news article The Towers Came Down, and With Them the Promise of Public Housing. Students have the option of using this as a resource for upcoming homework assignment
  5. Homework: Write a 4-6 page essay about the history of the Chicago Freedom Movement and answer the main question: did the Chicago Freedom Movement accomplish what it set out to do? Essays should give a history of the movement, what it was for, the proposals for the city and find other examples of the present day that supports your argument whether or not the movement improved quality of life.


“1989 SPECIAL REPORT: CHICAGO GANGLAND… CHILDREN AT WAR.” YouTube, CBS News Channel, 31 Aug. 2014,

Ayers, Thomas G. “Agreement of the Subcommittee to the Conference on Fair Housing Convened by the Chicago Conference on Religion and Race.” Https://,

Austen, Ben. “The Towers Came Down, and With Them the Promise of Public Housing.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 6 Feb. 2018,

Editors, “Fair Housing Act.”, A&E Television Networks, 27 Jan. 2010,

Griffin, Junius. “The Chicago Plan.” Southern Christian Leadership Conference, 7 Jan. 1966, pp. 1–7.

Jackson, Thomas F, and Martin Luther King. From Civil Rights to Human Rights : Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Struggle for Economic Justice. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

“Program of the Chicago Freedom Movement.” Https://, July 1966,

[1] Merriam Webster Dictionary

[2] “HOUSING DISCRIMINATION UNDER THE FAIR HOUSING ACT.” / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,

[3] Merriam Webster

[4] “Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 5 June 2018,

[5] Momodu, Samuel. “Chicago Freedom Movement (1965–1967) • BlackPast.” BlackPast, 30 Jan. 2019,