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The South Side is a major part of the City of Chicagomarker, which is located in Cook Countymarker, Illinoismarker, United States. Much of it has evolved from the city's incorporation of independent townships, such as Hyde Park Townshipmarker which voted along with several other townships to be annexed in the June 29, 1889 elections. Regions of the city, referred to as sides, are divided by the Chicago Rivermarker and its branches. The South Side of Chicago was originally defined as all of the city south of the main branch of the Chicago River, but it now excludes the Loopmarker. The South Side has a varied ethnic composition, and it has great disparity in income and other demographic measures. The South Side covers 60% of the city's land area, with a higher ratio of single-family homes and larger sections zoned for industry than the rest of the city.

Although it has endured a reputation as being poor and crime-infested, the reality is more varied; it ranges from impoverished to working class to affluent.Neighborhoods such as Armour Squaremarker, Back of the Yardsmarker, Bridgeportmarker, and Pullmanmarker tend to be composed of more blue collar residents, while the Jackson Park Highlands District, Hyde Parkmarker, Mount Greenwoodmarker, Morgan Parkmarker, Kenwoodmarker, and Beverlymarker tend to have middle, upper class, and affluent residents.

The South Side boasts a broad array of cultural and social offerings, such as professional sports teams, landmark buildings, nationally renowned museums, elite educational institutions, world class medical institutions, and major parts of the city's elaborate parks system. The South Side is serviced by bus and train via the Chicago Transit Authority and a number of Metra lines. In addition, it has several interstate and national highways to serve vehicular traffic.


The downtown "Loop" districtmarker (#32) is south of the river, but changing geographic and social perspectives have caused the contemporary definition of the "South Side" to exclude the Loop. Further confusing the issue, Chicago's address numbering system uses Madison Street (which runs east-west in the middle of the Loop) as the demarcation between north and south. Since the Loop's southern boundary is Roosevelt Road, many say that the South Side begins south of this road with the Near South Sidemarker (#33) community area, and, moving westward, it begins with the Armour Squaremarker (#34), Bridgeportmarker (#60), McKinley Parkmarker (#59), Brighton Parkmarker (#58), Archer Heightsmarker (#57) and Garfield Ridgemarker (#56) community areas. This article covers the region defined with these border communities. To the south of these lie 35 more community areas of the city, making the South Side defined by Roosevelt Road larger than the North and West Sides combined. Lake Michiganmarker and the Indianamarker state line border provide eastern boundaries that remain constant. The southern border had changed over time because of Chicago's evolving city limits, but the city limits are now no further south than 138th Street.


The exact boundaries dividing the Southwest, South and Southeast Sides vary by source, but following mostly racial lines, the South Side is further divided into a White and Hispanic Southwest Side, a largely Black South Side, and a smaller, more racially diverse Southeast Side centered on the East Sidemarker (#52) community area, and including the adjacent community areas of South Chicagomarker (#46), South Deeringmarker (#51), and Hegewischmarker (#55). The differing interpretations about the boundary between the South and Southwest Sides are due to a lack of a definite natural or artificial dividing boundary. However, one source opines that the boundary is best defined as Western Avenue or the railroad tracks adjacent to Western Avenue, and this border extends further south to a former railroad right of way paralleling Beverly Avenue and then Interstate 57.

The Southwest Side of Chicago is a subsection of the South Side comprising mainly residential, predominantly white and Hispanic neighborhoods. Architecturally, the Southwest Side is distinguished by the tract of Chicago's Bungalow Belt, which runs through it.

Archer Heights, a Polish enclave along Archer Avenue, which leads toward Midway Airportmarker, is located on the Southwest Side of the city, as is Beverlymarker-Morgan Parkmarker (#72, 75), home to a large concentration of Irish Americans.(107th divides Beverly and Morgan Park, which extend east and west of Western Ave.) Beverly-Morgan Park hosted the annual South Side Irish Parade, which typically drew a larger crowd than the St. Patrick's Day parade in Chicago's Loop. In fact, the parade is said to be the largest Irish neighborhood St. Patrick's celebration in the world outside of Dublin, Irelandmarker, and it was broadcast on Chicago's CBS affiliate. The parade was founded in 1979. Following the 2009 parade, organizers stated the group was "not planning to stage a parade in its present form". The Southwest Side is also home to the largest concentration of Górals, (Carpathianmarker highlanders) outside of Europe; it is the location of the Polish Highlanders Alliance of North America.

The South Side Irish Parade occurs on Western Avenue each year on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day on the southwest side. Another large parade occurs on the South Side every year. The Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic, the second largest parade in the United States and the nation's largest African-American parade, runs on Martin Luther King Drive between 31st and 51st Streets in Bronzeville, through the main portion of the South Side.


The South Side hosts two major professional athletic teams. Major League Baseball's Chicago White Sox play at U.S.marker Cellular Fieldmarker in the Armour Square community area, while the National Football League's Chicago Bears play at Soldier Fieldmarker in the Near South Side community area. Formerly, it has hosted the Chicago American Giants of the Negro National Leagues and the Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League.

2016 Olympic bid

The South Side would have played a prominent role in Chicago's bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Village was planned in the Douglasmarker (#35) community area across Lake Shore Drivemarker from Burnham Parkmarker. In addition, the Olympic Stadium was expected to be located in the Chicago Park District's Washington Parkmarker located in the Washington Parkmarker (#40) community area. Many Olympic events would have been hosted in these community areas as well as other parts of the South Side if the plan had succeeded.



With its factories, steel mills, and meat-packing plants, the South Side saw a sustained period of immigration which began around the 1840s and continued through World War II. Irish, Italian, Polish and Lithuanian immigrants, in particular, settled in neighborhoods adjacent to industrial zones. African Americans resided in Bronzeville (around 35th and State Streets) in an area called "the Black Belt", and after World War II they spread across the South Side. The Black Belt, which gave a new meaning to the term ghetto, arose from discriminatory real estate practices and the threat of violence in nearby ethnic white neighborhoods.

Post-Reconstruction black southerners migrated to Chicago in large numbers and caused the African American population to nearly quadruple from 4,000 to 15,000 between 1870 and 1890. The population was concentrated on the South Side.

In the 20th century, the numbers expanded with the Great Migration as African Americans voted with their feet and left the South's lynchings, disfranchisement, poor job opportunities and limited education. By 1910 the black population in Chicago reached 40,000, with 78% residing in the South Side's "Black Belt". It extended for 30 blocks along State Street and was only a few blocks wide. The South Side had problems but was also the place where African Americans created a vibrant community with their own businesses, music, food and culture. Compared to their previous conditions in the rural South, many saw opportunities for themselves and their children in Chicago.

After some time, as more blacks moved into the South Side, descendants of earlier immigrants, such as ethnic Irish, began to move out. Later housing pressures and civic unrest caused more whites to leave the city, a complexity of what was a succession of different ethnic groups. Older residents of means moved to newer housing developed in suburbs as new migrants entered the city., driving further demographic changes in the south side.

The South Side has had a history of racial segregation. During the 1920s and 1930s, housing cases on the South Side created legal debate in cases such as Hansberry v. Lee, , which went to the U.marker S.marker Supreme Courtmarker. It challenged racial restrictions in the Washington Park Subdivisionmarker.

Later, the construction of the Dan Ryan Expressway added a physical barrier between some white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods. It was the divide between Bridgeport (traditionally Irish) and Bronzeville.

After decades in the late 20th century of sustaining some of the poorest housing conditions in the United States, the Chicago Housing Authority has begun replacing the old high-rise public housing with mixed-income, lower-density developments in the Plan for Transformation. Many of the CHA's massive public housing projects, which lined several miles of South State Street, have been torn down. Among the largest were the Robert Taylor Homesmarker.

Private sector redevelopment is occurring rapidly. Neighborhood rehabilitation (and, in some cases, gentrification) can also be seen in parts of Washington Park, Woodlawnmarker (#42) and Bronzeville, as well as in Bridgeport and McKinley Park. Historic Pullmanmarker's redevelopment is another example of a work in progress. Chinatownmarker is located on the South Side and has seen a surge in growth. It has become an increasingly popular destination for both tourists and locals alike and is a cornerstone of the city's Chinese community. The South Loop's booming mid-decade construction suggests that the South Side will be populated with more Caucasians in the coming years. The South Side offers many outdoor amenities, such as miles of public lakefront parks and beaches, as it borders Lake Michigan on its eastern side.

Segregation meant that blacks became concentrated on the South Side, especially as some whites left. Mid-century industrial restructuring in meat packing and the steel industry meant that many jobs were lost. African Americans who became educated and achieved middle-class jobs also left after Civil Rights Movement achieved changes in housing, and the South Side became relatively depopulated, with a concentration of poor families. It lost many of the businesses and cultural amenities of its peak days. A large Mexican-American population resides in Little Village (South Lawndale) and areas south of 99th Street. Hyde Park is home to the University of Chicagomarker as well as the South Side's largest Jewish population, which is centered on Chicago's oldest synagogue, the Chicago Landmark KAM Isaiah Israelmarker.

Street gangs have been prominent in some South Side neighborhoods for over a century, beginning with those of Irish immigrants, who established the first territories against other European immigrants and black migrants. Some other neighborhoods have been relatively safe for a big city. By the 1960s, gangs such as the Vice Lords began to improve their public image, moving from thuggish ventures to obtaining government and private grants. By 2000, gangs crossed gender lines to include about a 20% female composition. The South Side has a population of 752,496 that is over 93% African-American and that includes zip codes that are over 98% black or African-American.


Chicago's African American community, which was concentrated on the South Side, experienced an artistic movement following the Harlem Renaissance in New York Citymarker. From the 1930s until the 1950s, the movement was concentrated in and around the Hyde Parkmarker community area. Prominent writers and artists included Gwendolyn Brooks, Margaret Burroughs, Elizabeth Catlett, Eldzier Cortor, Gordon Parks, and Richard Wright. Other Chicago Black Renaissance artists included Willard Motley, William Attaway, Frank Marshall Davis and Margaret Walker. St. Clair Drake and Horace R. Cayton represented the new wave of intellectual expression in literature by depicting the culture of the urban ghetto rather than the culture of blacks in the South in the monograph Black Metropolis (ISBN 0226162346). In 1961, Burroughs founded the DuSable Museummarker. By the late 1960s the South Side had a resurgent art movement led by Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum, who became known as the Chicago Imagists.

Music in Chicago flourished, with musicians bringing blues and gospel influences up from Mississippi and stops along the way, and creating a Chicago sound in blues and jazz. There was opportunity for independent companies because labels with studios in New York City or Los Angelesmarker only kept regional distribution offices in Chicago. In 1948, Blues was introduced by Aristocrat Records (later Chess Records), and Muddy Waters and Chess Records quickly followed with Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, and Howlin' Wolf. Vee-Jay, the largest black-owned label before Motown Records, was among the post-World War II companies that formed "Record Row" on Cottage Grove between 47th and 50th Streets. In the 1960s, it was located along South Michigan Avenuemarker. Rhythm and blues continued to thrive after Record Row became the hub of gospelized R&B, known as soul. Chicago continues as a prominent city for musical contribution.

Many other artists have left their mark on Chicago's South Side. These include Upton Sinclair and James Farrell via fiction, Archibald Motley, Jr. via painting, Henry Moore and Lorado Taft via sculpture, and Thomas Dorsey and Mahalia Jackson via gospel music. Since the arts have thrived on the South Side, the South Side has numerous art museums and galleries such as the DuSable Museum of African American Historymarker, National Museum of Mexican Art, National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, and the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Artmarker (known as the Smart Museum). In addition, cultural centers such as the South Shore Cultural Centermarker, South Side Community Art Center, Harold Washington Cultural Centermarker and Hyde Park Art Center endeavor to avail art and culture to the public while fostering opportunities for artists.


The Illinois Constitution gave rise to townships that provided municipal services in 1850. Several townships surrounding Chicago incorporated in order to better serve their residents. However, growth and prosperity led to an overburdened government system. In 1889, most of these townships determined that they would be better off as part of a larger Chicago. Lake View, Jefferson, Cicero, Lake, and Hyde Park Townshipmarker were annexed. Today's South Side is mostly a combination of the old Hyde Park and Lake Townships. Within these townships many had made speculative bets on the future prosperity of the respective regions. Much of the South Side has evolved from these speculative investments. Stephen A. Douglas, Paul Cornell, George Pullman and various business entities have developed South Chicago real estate. The Pullman Districtmarker, a former company town, Hyde Park Township, various platted communities and subdivisions were the results of such efforts.

The Union Stock Yardsmarker, which were once located in the South Side's New Citymarker community area (#61), at one point employed 25,000 people and produced 82 percent of the domestic meat consumption. They were so synonymous with the City for over a century that they were mentioned as part of the lyrics of Frank Sinatra's "My Kind of Town", in the phrase: "The Union Stockyard, Chicago is..." The Union Stock Yard Gatemarker marking the old entrance to stockyards was designated a Chicago Landmark on February 24, 1972 and a National Historic Landmark on May 29, 1981.

By the 1930s, Chicago boasted a composition which included over 25% residential structures less than 10 years old, many of which were bungalows. These continued to be built in the working-class South Side into the 1960s. Kitchenettes, often including Murphy beds and Pullman kitchens, also composed a large part of the housing supply during and after the Great Depression, especially in the Black Belt. Chicago's South Side had a history of philanthropic subsidized housing dating back to 1919.

In 1949, the United States Congress passed the Housing Act to fund public housing to try to improve housing in many cities. The CHA produced a plan of citywide projects, which was rejected by some of the Chicago City Council's white aldermen who opposed public housing in their wards. This led to a CHA policy of construction of family housing in black residential areas, concentrated on the South and West Sides of the city.

Gentrification of parts of the Douglasmarker community area has bolstered the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville District. Gentrification in various parts of the South Side has displaced many African Americans. The South Side hosts numerous cooperatives. Hyde Parkmarker has several middle-income co-ops, and other South Side regions have limited equity (subsidized, price-controlled) co-ops. These regions have experienced condominium construction and conversion in the 1970s and 1980s. In addition, the South Side has regions that have been known for great wealth, such as Prairie Avenuemarker. Its 21st century redevelopment includes One Museum Parkmarker and One Museum Park Westmarker.

The South Side has accommodated much of the city's conference business with various convention centers. The current McCormick Placemarker Convention Center is the largest convention center in the United States, and the third largest in the world. Previously, the South Side hosted conventions at the Chicago Coliseummarker and the International Amphitheatremarker. Although the South Side does not have any retail offerings that rival the Magnificent Mile, it does have the Ford City Mall and the surrounding shopping district, which includes several big-box retailers.

The South Side has been home some the most significant figures in the history of American politics. The first African-American United States President Barack Obama, the first female African-American United States Senator Carol Moseley Braun, and first African-American presidential candidate to win a primary, Jesse Jackson. Before them, United States Congressman and the first African-American Mayor of Chicago Harold Washington and groundbreaking Congressman William L. Dawson achieved political success from from the South Side.


Chicago's reputation for political corruption stems in part from tolerance of vices such as prostitution. Early prostitution occurred in the central business district. However, the disreputables were eventually pushed to the South Side, creating the Levee, one of the nation's most infamous sex districts. Although Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison II closed the Levee in 1912 and much of the trade moved to the suburbs, nightclubs on the South Side had an ample supply of prostitutes. Among those who cared for and rehabilitated persons charged with prostitution were a small group of the Good Shepherd Sisters, who became the first nuns to serve African Americans on Chicago's South Side.


Colleges and universities

With the University of Chicagomarker, the South Side hosts post-secondary educational institutions that are considered to be elite. In addition to being highly ranked, the University of Chicago has had 16 Nobel Prizes awarded to persons of research or on faculty at the university at the time of the award announcement, placing it 6th among U.S. institutions. At Chicago Pile-1marker on the campus, the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction was achieved under the direction of Enrico Fermi. The University of Chicago hosts one of the nation's best medical centers at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Other four-year educational institutions are Shimer College, Illinois Institute of Technologymarker, St. Xavier University, and Chicago State Universitymarker. The South Side also hosts its share of community colleges such as Olive-Harvey Collegemarker, Kennedy-King College, Richard J. Daley College. Two concentrations of residents with post baccalaureate degrees are found on the South Side; Hyde Park/Kenwood and Beverly/Ashburn.

Primary and secondary schools

Chicago Public Schools operates the public schools serving the South Side. Zoned public high schools serving the South Side include DuSable High Schoolmarker, Englewood Technical Prep Academy, John Hope College Prep High School, and Phillips Academy High Schoolmarker.The De La Salle Institutemarker, located in the Douglas, Chicagomarker community area across the street from the Chicago Police Department headquarters, has taught many notable celebrities and 5 Chicago Mayors: Richard J. Daley, Michael A. Bilandic, Martin H. Kennelly, Frank J. Corr, and current mayor, Richard M. Daley. Three of these mayors hail from the South Side's Bridgeportmarker community area, which has itself produced 5 Chicago Mayors.

Magnet public high schools in the South Side include Simeon Career Academy. University of Chicago Lab Schoolmarker, affiliated with the University of Chicago, is a private school located in the South Side.


The South Side is home to many official landmarks and other notable buildings and structures. It hosts three of the four Chicago Registered Historic Places from the original October 15, 1966 National Register of Historic Places list (Chicago Pile-1marker, Robie Housemarker, & Lorado Taft Midway Studiosmarker). Since its construction in 1968, 1700 East 56th Streetmarker has been the tallest building on the South Side. However, One Museum Parkmarker, which is along Roosevelt Road, the northern border of the South Side, will soon take over this title. One Museum Park Westmarker, which will be next door to One Museum Park, will also be one of the tallest buildings in Chicago. 1700 East 56th will continue to be the tallest building south of 13th street. Although most of the other tall buildings in Chicago are in the Loopmarker or Near North Sidemarker community areas, many Chicago Landmarks are located on the South Side.

There is a large concentration of landmark buildings in the Black Metropolis-Bronzeville District. Also, buildings such as Powhatan Apartmentsmarker, Robie Housemarker and John J.marker Glessner Housemarker are among the South Side landmarks. The South Side has many of Chicago's landmark places of worship such as Eighth Church of Christ, Scientist, First Church of Deliverance and K.A.M.marker Isaiah Israel Templemarker. The South Side also has several landmark districts including two located in Barack Obama's Kenwoodmarker community area: Kenwood District, and North Kenwood Districtmarker. In addition to its art museums the South Side hosts the Museum of Science and Industrymarker, which although not an art museum has its place in the artistic fabric of the city. The Museum of Science and Industry is located in the Palace of Fine Arts, one of the few remaining buildings from the 1893 World's Columbian Expositionmarker, which was hosted in South Side.

In addition to hosting Obama, the South Side is the residence of other currently prominent black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan. It is also place where United States Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Bobby Rush (a former Black Panther leader) serve.

The South Side has been a place of political controversy. Although the locations of some of these notable controversies have not become officials landmarks, they remain important parts of Chicago history. The Chicago Race Riot of 1919 was the worst of the approximately 25 riots during the Red Summer of 1919 and required 6000 National Guard troops to quell. As mentioned above, segregation has been a political theme of controversy for some time on the South Side as exhibited by Hansberry v. Lee, .


The South Side is served extensively by mass transit as well as major roads and highways. In addition, Midway International Airportmarker, which provides connections between the South Side and the world, is located on the South Side. Among the highways through the South Side are I-94 (which goes by the names Dan Ryan Expressway, Bishop Ford Freeway, and Kingery Expressway on the South Side), I-90 (which goes by the names Dan Ryan Expressway, and Chicago Skywaymarker on the South Side), I-57, I-55 U.S. 12, U.S. 20, and U.S. 41. Several Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) bus and train lines and Metra train lines link the South Side to rest of the city. The South Side is serviced by the Red, Green and Orange lines of the CTA, and the Rock Island District, Metra Electric, and South Shore Metra lines and a few stops on the SouthWest Service Metra line. In addition to standard local metropolitan bus service by the CTA, several South Side CTA express service bus routes provide the South Side with direct service into the Chicago Loopmarker by running without stops along Lake Shore Drivemarker.


The Chicago Park District boasts of parkland, 552 parks, 33 beaches, nine museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons, 10 bird and wildlife gardens. Many of these are on the South Side, including several large parks that are part of the legacy of Paul Cornell, the father of Hyde Parkmarker, and his service on the South Parks Commission.

Chicago Park District parks serving the South Side include Burnham Parkmarker, Jackson Parkmarker, Washington Parkmarker, Midway Plaisancemarker and Harold Washington Parkmarker. Away from the Hyde Park area, large parks include the 69 acre McKinley Park, 323 acre Marquette Parkmarker, the 198 acre Calumet Parkmarker, and the 173 acre Douglas Parkmarker. The parks of Chicago foster and host tremendous amounts of athletic activities.

The South Side also has the only Illinois state park within the city of Chicago: William W.marker Powers State Recreation Areamarker. Other opportunities for more "natural" recreation are provided by the Cook County Forest Preserve's Dan Ryan Woods and the Beaubien Woods on the far south side, along the Little Calumet River

In addition, several events cause the closure of parts of Lake Shore Drivemarker. Although the Chicago Marathon causes many roads to be closed in its route that goes as far north as Wrigleyville and to Bronzeville on the South Side, it does not cause any closures to the drive. However, on the South Side, the Chicago Half Marathon necessitates closures, and the entire drive is closed for Bike The Drive.

Beginning in 1905, the White City Amusement Park, located on 63rd Street provided a recreational area to the citizens of the area. Until the early 1920s, a dirigible service ran from the park, which was also the location that Goodyear Blimps were first produced, to Grant Parkmarker. This service was discontinued after the Wingfoot Air Express Crash. Although a fire destroyed much of the park in the late 1920s and more was torn down in the 1930s, in some form or another the park continued to exist until the 1950s.

References in popular culture

The South Side's gritty reputation often makes its way into popular culture.

  • Richard Wright's novel Native Son (ISBN 006083756X) takes place on the South Side and focuses on the plight of African Americans in the ghetto, including the housing practices that created such slums.

  • The Boondocks, a comic strip and animated series, stars the Freeman family which have recently moved from the South Side of Chicago to a suburb.

Iceberg Slim, the author of Pimp, was raised on the South Side of Chicago. That's also where most of the plots of his books happen. In spite of his famous "work" as a pimp, Iceberg Slim was considered a successful author who sold over six million books. Translated all over the world, he widely contributed to make people know the reality of life of the South Side.


  1. Hayner, Don and Tom McNamee, Streetwise Chicago, "Madison Street", p. 79, Loyola University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8294-0597-6
  2. Goldstein, Tom. " New York's Administrative Judge; Herbert Bernette Evans Man in the News A Hankering for Administration Opinion in Murder Appeal Born in Kansas City." The New York Times. Saturday February 24, 1979.
  3. Janson, Donald. " Troops Patrol in Chicago As Slum Violence Erupts; Guardsmen Patrol in Chicago as Violence Erupts." The New York Times. Friday April 4, 1969. Page 1.
  4. Wallis, Claudia. " On a Listening Tour with Melinda Gates." TIME. Tuesday May 8, 2007.
  5. " Student shot to death near high school." WLS-TV. March 29, 2008.

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