The Civil Rights Movement unfolded uniquely in Chicago; in the North Lawndale and Woodlawn neighborhoods two street gangs, the Conservative Vice Lords (CVL) and the Almighty Black P Stone Nation (BPSN ) assumed the role of community organizations. They used their neighborhood connections and street savvy to alleviate racial pressures oppressing Chicago’s urban African American youths: high dropout rates, poor job opportunities, and the stress of dealing with increasingly unstable and declining communities. While the gangs’ established hierarchies led to rapid formation of community organizations, their efforts fell apart over a brief four-year period due to an inability to divest themselves fully of their criminal core. With the years of experience the gangs had working as singular units and the social capital they possessed on the streets, in 1966 both gangs quickly reorganized from street level groups to incorporated institutions. Promising to leave their criminal roots behind them, they received grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), and others. With their local powerbases secured, they made alliances and enemies. The mid to late 60s saw a clash between the gangs and the state and federal governments. This conflict, not just of differing personalities, but also of different motivations, pitted the hopes of an African American led community against the “mafia-esque” tactics the gangs used to assert control over their membership and territories. In doing so, these inner city youths proved how marginalized populations could effect change within their communities. This paper examines the metamorphosis of the CVL and BPSN from street gangs to political powerhouses as well as their successes and failures during the time period 1966 through 1970. This examination starts with their formation, continuing through their initiation into the Civil-Rights Movement, ending with the decade’s close and the end of the gang’s positive agency.
Linzy, Benjamin Ray
"The “Chicago Way”: Inner-City Street Gangs and the Battle for Civil Rights in the Windy City, 1966- 1970,"
Academic Leadership Journal in Student Research: Vol. 2
, Article 4.
Available at: https://scholars.fhsu.edu/aljsr/vol2/iss1/4