The Chicago Plan - January 7, 1966

Although the mid-1960s saw major victories for the civil rights movement, including the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, organizers knew that the struggle for Black liberation did not end with those legislative victories.

In the latter half of the 1960s, organizers increasingly shifted their focus from voting rights and formal segregation (such as buses, lunch counters and schools) to poverty, slums, and other more informal structures of segregation that perpetuated the economic exploitation of African Americans. This focus also brought more civil rights activism to the North—including from organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).

This document demonstrates the shift in focus through Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s explanation of the SCLC’s plan to end slums and economic exploitation in Chicago.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Grade Level

This text is part of the Teaching the Movement Text Library and aligns with Summary Objective 8.A.

Click this link to access the text on the Civil Rights Movement Archive website.

Text Dependent Questions
  1. Question
    What does the SCLC hope to achieve in Chicago? Why is this program taking place in Chicago?
    Possible answer: After years of working in the South, the SCLC hopes to work toward the elimination of slums in Chicago, or to make them a “moral and financial liability.” They have chosen Chicago as a starting place because of its status as a major destination for African Americans leaving the South in the Great Migration.
  2. Question
    How does Martin Luther King Jr. argue that Black Chicagoans cannot access adequate housing?
    Possible answer: King argues that Black Chicagoans cannot access adequate housing because of a segregated housing market, higher home rental and purchase prices, and higher insurance and interest rates.
  3. Question
    What victories does King claim in the South?
    Possible answer: King names several victories of the SCLC, including simplifying issues in Birmingham to the one issue of segregation, helping integrate lunch counters and ensuring the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  4. Question
    Why does King claim that Chicago slums are a specifically Black problem?
    Possible answer: King claims that slums are economically exploiting Black Chicagoans. He also says that, unlike people of other ethnic groups who might be relegated to particular areas, African Americans cannot move elsewhere in the city because of Chicago’s segregated housing market.
  5. Question
    What does King see as the first steps to solving the Chicago problem?
    Possible answer: King states that the first phase of the Chicago project will primarily focus upon educating people and defining the slum problem. King and the SCLC plan to carry this out through partnerships with ministers and the establishment of unions to end slums.
  6. Question
    What does this document demonstrate about the shifting priorities of the civil rights movement after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?
    Possible answer: This document demonstrates that King and other civil rights leaders sought to end poverty, slums, economic exploitation and other more informal mechanisms of segregation, after fighting for voting rights and ending formal segregation in the South.
Reveal Answers