The Ethnic Cleansing of the Hull House Neighborhood
The Ethnic Cleansing of the Hull House Neighborhood
Following is the sequence of events, beyond the presentation made to the UIC Board of Trustees earlier, which further documents that the leadership of the Jane Addams’ Hull House Museum (JAHHM) is insidiously engaged in a program of ethnic cleansing. In lieu of complying with the spirit of the mission statement, which gives substance to the very existence of the JAHHM, the leadership is intent upon promoting its own agenda. The present administration of the JAHHM has omitted that portion of the mission statement that alludes to “the history and legacy of the neighborhood that the Jane Addams’ Hull House served.” Included in its replacement is their repeated heterophobic obsession to confirm Jane Addams’ lesbianism.
February 25, 2013 12:36 PM.
Irina Zadov, newly hired and Education Coordinator, sends out a broad invitation to the community seeking “youth and adult advisors for a series of monthly meetings through which we will develop an action plan for the future of JAHHM education.”
February 25, 2013 1:47 PM.
In accepting the invitation to participate in the project, I CC’d Dominic Candeloro, Historian and Casa Italia Associate in that email.
February 25, 2013 3:07 PM.
Upon receiving my affirmative response to accept the invitation to join the educational committee, Irina Zadov responds, amazingly, in just a matter of two (2) hours, that the purpose of the advisory committee has been changed:–“Due to the changing demographics of Chicago, particularly of the Chicago Public Schools, we will be bringing to light the African American and Latino presence at Hull House – as opposed to those of Eastern and Southern Europeans whose stories we believe have been thoughtfully preserved at the Museum throughout its history. If you are interested in contributing to this specific conversation we invite you to join us, otherwise…”
February 26, 2013 6:06 PM.
Undeterred, I emailed my credentials that clearly qualified me as a viable member of the newly altered committee now charged with focusing on the African and Latino presence at Hull House. I documented my credentials as a participant in the Hull House experience that contributed to my identity and later, as a Hull House employee as a contributor to the fashioning identities of others that followed me. They include:
1) In addition to my normal responsibilities as a social worker at Hull House, I was designated to escort Afro-American teenagers safely to and from Hull House. The journey from the public housing projects through a hostile enclave of belligerent neighborhood groups occurred two evening a week. Aside: That experiment ended in failure a year later when I was replaced by an Afro-American social worker.
2) My numerous interfacings, as documented in the Taylor Street Archives website, with Afro-American and Mexican Americans (immigrants and otherwise) as part of my
personal experience of growing up in the Hull House neighborhood;
3) My 10 year teacher/educator experience as a dominant factor at Wells HS, the first integrated high school in Chicago whose boundaries were gerrymandered to include the Afro-American population from the Cabrini Green Housing Project and Latinos from the Humboldt park area.
4) My presentation to the UIC’s Board of Trustees which encouraged the BOT to endorse a meeting with the JAHHM director to explore and encourage a link on the JAHHM website titled “Stories From the Hull House Neighborhood.” That link would enable the Museum to comply with the JAHHM’s Mission Statement: “…to preserve the history and legacy of the neighborhood that the Jane Addams’ Hull House served.” Aside: Lisa Lee, then director of the JAHHM who passed on the interim directorship to Lisa Junkin, boycotted the meeting.
February 28, 2013 11:09 AM.
My credentials (and Dominic Candeloro’s credentials as well) to effectively contribute, as members of the newly altered committee dealing with issues affecting Afro-Americans and Latinos were abruptly challenged by a higher authority than the newly hired Irina Zadov.
Lisa Junkin, recently assigned as interim director of the Hull House Museum, suddenly interceded. Apparently, upon being informed of the failed attempt by Irina Zadov to cleanse the education committee of undesirable members of the community, Ms. Junkin vetoed the contrived invitation by the newly hired Education Coordinator. Ms. Junkin’s February 28 email effectively excommunicated Dominic Candeloro and me from participating in either of the two committees: Per Ms. Junkin: Neither of our backgrounds nor interests were considered suitable as members of either educational committee designed to benefit today’s minority groups. In what apparently was an attempt to establish a protective moat, Ms. Junkin added: Our interests would be best suited elsewhere…at some vague future point in time.
It is ironic that Ms. Junkin doubted that anyone with roots that reach back to the immigrant slums that produced: 1) the 42 gang, that component of the gangland era that was the precursor of the Chicago Outfit, 2) the most prolific hit man in the history of organized crime, 3) a record share of convicted criminals doing life without parole, 4) Willard Motley’s best seller Knock on any Door, which became a thesis of sorts for Jane Addams theory of symbolic interactionism, etc., and 5) generations of offspring that, for over three-quarters of a century, occupied the bottom rung on the educational achievement ladder of all European immigrants as measured by enrollment in college—could possible make a valid contribution to today’s minority groups occupying the inner city neighborhoods.
Ms. Junkin, despite the position to which she was promoted, apparently was also oblivious of the fact that the community that Jane Addams had labeled “The Hull House Neighborhood” consisted of European immigrants–(prominent among which were the Jews who resided south of 12th Street, the Greeks who resided in the delta area north of Hull House and the Italians who occupied the area between the Jews and the Greeks, from the river on the east on out to the western boundary)—and the two major migrant groups: African-Americans and
Mexicans. Further, Ms. Junkin apparently was oblivious of the rare display of the Italian American presence in the Hull House neighborhood via a picture depicting a youngster with an Italian American surname who was saved from Taylor Street’s gang infested neighborhood by his participation in Hull House’s pottery making class. Ms. Junkin saw no correlation between the Italian American experience of growing up in the slums of the Hull House neighborhood and the issues confronting today’s minority groups, despite the inclusion of those stories from the Taylor Street Archives in my response to Ms. Zukin’s invitation.
In all fairness, I must acknowledge the change that did occur after the UIC BOT stipulated to the chancellor that a meeting be set in which the director of the JAHHM and the editor of the Taylor Street Archives representing the community, as noted above. Despite Ms. Lisa Lee’s decision to boycott the meeting, the Museum did make the following changes: 1) It included Florence Scala’s struggle with the establishment to preserve the neighborhood in the1960s by moving the UIC elsewhere; 2) Wallace Kirkland’s 1924 classic photograph “The Hull House Kids” was on display at the museum since its inception. Despite a Sun-Times investigative reporter (Phillip Corndt) documenting that the 20 kids were of Italian ancestry (and not of Irish ancestry as was being depicted) the museum refused to note their correct ethnicity. Sometime after Christopher Kennedy and the UIC BOT requested a meeting regarding the Museum’s accountability to its Mission Statement, that photograph was posted in the second floor hall with a caption noting that they were of Italian ethnicity: “Italian youngsters…” The Museum refuses to include in the caption the photograph’s historic title “The Hull House kids. Thus properly captioning the photograph as: “The Hull House Kids: 20 youngster of Italian heritage.”
I include the following snippets from those stories contributed by both the immigrant and migrant community to the Taylor Street Archives for your consideration and for your convenience. You may choose to include them in your judgment.
The attached story, Gentile Pharmacy (to be found in the Taylor Street Archives website), is but one of many stories that touch upon the dynamics that were in play between and among the various ethnic factions and their gangs that comprised the Hull House neighborhood. Snippets from other stories of those who lived the experience of growing up in the Hull House neighborhood and the Legendary Tylor Street include:
We had some really tough guys in our piece of Little Italy. We had Golden Glove champions Richie Guererro and Jackie Corvino. Other Golden Glovers included Chickie LaPlaca. Richie knocked Floyd Patterson (who later became heavyweight champion of the world) out of the ring in the Olympics. There were others who, while not having achieved similar measures of prominence, were, in my mind, much tougher—depending upon your definition of “tough.” Bobbie Salerno lived across the street from me. Harry Aleman I was told, was also born on Peoria Street. As an aside, I was Harry’s counselor when he was a camper at the Hull House Bowen Country Club. But that’s another story to be told elsewhere. (Richie Guererro was of Mexican heritage and Harry Aleman’s father was also of Mexican heritage and married a girl of Italian heritage.)
One day we went to play the black kids at the boys’ club south of Roosevelt Road. (We grew up
during ethnic times and we were an ethnically defined neighborhood.) They scheduled a basketball game with our Hull House team as a prelude to their Saturday night dance.
Most were of Italian ancestry; some were Mexican-Americans; and a few were African-Americans. At that time, most African-American families lived within a cluster of homes within our Italian community which were known locally as “the projects.” From my back porch on Aberdeen and Taylor I could see their houses as well as the back porches of my neighbors who lived on Carpenter Street across the alley from me. Our neighborhood, which harbored Sheridan Park, was wall-to-wall kids. It wasn’t until our pre-teens that we began extending ourselves beyond our immediate street and explored the larger community and its other inhabitants. There were a heck-of-a-lot of kids, ages 8-12, who sought each other out for the sheer joy of the camaraderie.
Growing up was just one laugh after another. The games had no color barriers. We were just kids seeking each other out for no other reason than to lose ourselves in a game of
marbles, kick-the-can, tag, hide-and-seek, higher than the ground, red rover, fly and bounce, etc., etc., etc. In a neighborhood where everyone was ethnically defined, there were no biases or prejudices. The stature and respect each of us achieved in those games was earned and ethnicity was not a factor when choosing up sides. The games taught us that no group was better or worse than any other.
Chicken Charlie (“No dime, no show!”) was a frequent visitor to our neighborhood. An elderly black man, he walked the neighborhood with a chicken and a piece of rope. As kids, we ran to him to see what new tricks he had taught his chicken. It was always the same trick, his aging chicken trying to balance itself on a rope.
Theresa’s tavern—on Taylor between Newberry and Peoria streets–served an exclusive Mexican clientele. My bedroom was across the alley from the tavern. Mexican music, dipped in tequila, was drummed into my subconscious every Friday and Saturday night for the first 14 years of my life. The Mexicans were the only other ethnic group that existed in any discernible numbers within the inner core of the Hull House neighborhood.
Although Mexicans and Italians were both teammates and opponents in their athletic activities, social integration was rare and virtually non-existent on a group scale. There were individual Mexicans who had become members of an Italian gang or club. I suspect a caste mentality rejected a reverse situation of individual Italians became members of a Mexican gang or club. There may have been a racist undertone that existed as well. If an Italian girl favored a Mexican boy, she was labeled: “Mexican lover!”