|Origins||Settled c. 1855 and annexed in 1889|
60th Street on the north, South Chicago Avenue to 67th Street on the south, Lake Michigan on the east, Martin Luther King Drive on the west
|Gangs founded||Black P Stones,|
|Gangs headquartered||Black P Stones, Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Mickey Cobras,|
This area was first settled in the 1850s by Dutch farmers that harvested and sold their produce to many merchants in the city of Chicago. In the year 1861 the area was annexed into the Hyde Park Township area. The area remained as a small rural area with scattered farmers until 1889 when all of Hyde Park Township was annexed into the city of Chicago and the name “Woodlawn” was given to this area.
The real boom happened in 1893 when the city decided to hold the World’s Columbian Exposition right in Jackson Park which was mostly within the Woodlawn borders. Hotels and apartment buildings were constructed in 1893 and soon over 20,000 more people moved into the Woodlawn neighborhood. To keep the community alive when the Fair ended several shops were built along 63rd Street. There was also the platting and construction of the Washington Park subdivision that became the host of amusement parks and a racetrack. All this entertainment brought many travelers from other parts of the city and tourists from around the world. Many fell in love with Woodlawn and made the neighborhood their home, especially University of Chicago professors.
In the year 1905 betting at the racetrack was considered a form of gambling, thus, deemed illegal so the racetrack was removed, and apartment complexes were built over those grounds, these apartments then brought in the first African American residents in this western part of Woodlawn much to the objection of the white community. African Americans began coming in larger numbers during and after World War I. Woodlawn was one of the earliest examples of black migration to white community in Chicago history.
In the year 1928 a restrictive covenant was put into place to stop the growth of the African American population in west Woodlawn, this covenant was an agreement made with landlords that may or may not have been living in Woodlawn. The most important goal the white community wanted to accomplish was to prevent the African Americans from renting within the various apartments in west Woodlawn. The black population of Woodlawn was at 13% by the 1930 census and many white residents wanted to keep it that way. After nearby Washington Park changed dramatically by this time Woodlawn residents did not want this community to have the same fate especially because they witnessed how the property values plummeted in Washington Park and poverty set in.
The Great Depression era of the 1930s had a major effect on this community as several businesses along 63rd Street closed down and the local economy was not doing so well and this meant landlords that rented the apartments were not doing so well and they began breaking the covenant allowing African American families to rent from them because they were willing to pay a much higher rate than whites. White residents battled in court to stop African Americans from colonizing the neighborhood but in 1940 the courts found the 1928 covenant to not even be valid and this allowed blacks to move into this neighborhood unrestricted.
The 1940s saw more hard times in the community as many more 63rd Street businesses closed, and sleazy taverns were opened instead. The neighborhood never recovered from the depression years and Woodlawn looked shabby and even had blighted buildings. Much of Woodlawn was impoverished and this allowed lower income residents to move in that were white, Puerto Rican and black.
In 1946 there were plans to bring about urban renewal; however, this plan failed, and the neighborhood sunk into a state of deterioration. White flight now made issues worse in Woodlawn as many white residents left the area by the later 40s after neighborhood renewal failed and black migration was increasing. For the mostly part black middle-class families were moving into Woodlawn in the 1940s as they were able to dodge covenants due to having higher incomes. After Restrictive covenants were lifted by the Supreme Court in 1948 more impoverished black families were able to settle in the many apartment buildings in the community. This is when white flight accelerated to the point that Woodlawn was 39% black by the 1950 census.
In the earlier half of the 1950s decade the white population made up only a slight majority in the neighborhood as black families continued to move in at an increased pace. During these years white Woodlawn residents heavily protested the neighborhood change and to form community organizations to keep black poverty out. Many middle-class black families moved here from Bronzeville because around 1950 Bronzeville began to decline. Now even black middle-classes became upset about the migration of impoverished residents.
Property values were dropping in the community and landlords were dividing their properties into kitchenette style apartments to fatten their profits. These were tiny apartments that were often given poor attention, but low-income black families found these properties to be sustainable and more affordable than any other places. Chicago was also still in the midst of a housing crisis and there was not enough places to rent in Bronzeville and Washington Park by the early 50s so Woodlawn was the best alternative. Racial clashing and even racial violence became an issue in Woodlawn in the early 50s as many Woodlawn whites could not afford to move out of the area initially; therefore, they fought the change of the area they were stuck living in. Many white residents were also upset because for decades many upper-class whites had lived in east Woodlawn as their children attended the prestigious Mt. Carmel High School located at 64th and Blackstone. This was a highly selective private high school that was exclusively white during these times and parents became upset their children would attend a school in an impoverished black community. Now parents felt they needed to move out of the area and send their children to school by bus.
By the early to mid-1950s Woodlawn was now majority black and at this tipping point racial strife worsened in the community as the transition was a rough one. Frustrated black youths dealing with police mistreatment and violence from groups of white youths put together a group to combat these issues calling themselves the Players. The Players attempted to be a group standing up to oppression and unfair treatment, but they did not know how to organize effectively and by 1955 the group broke up. In the year 1955 the younger members of the Players called the Junior Players were not ready to give up hope, so they created the Blackstone Raiders named after Blackstone Street in east Woodlawn. This location was likely chosen because Mt. Carmel is on Blackstone and perhaps much of the racial conflict happened in this area of east Woodlawn.
When the Blackstone Raiders formed Woodlawn had become a majority black community and this was perhaps the height of the racial tensions but within a few year the white population decided to continue rapid white flight. When the Dan Ryan Expressway construction began in 1958 that displaced many black Chicagoans and Woodlawn was in more demand to house impoverished black families. Slum lords took advantage of this by further dividing apartments into very small kitchenettes cramming families into deteriorated problematic buildings. These landlords charged cheap rent; however, the rent was still far above the value of the apartment but it was all desperate impoverished families could afford or even find during this housing crisis. Slum lords knew no one would come to the aid of these families so they did little to improve their buildings. These buildings and abandoned buildings became factors that caused the decline in the value of the community.
In the year 1959 larger black street gangs from north of Woodlawn came down to settle in this community and connect with impoverished and middle-class black youths of Woodlawn. The Egyptian Cobras from Fuller Park settled in East Woodlawn. The Devil’s Disciples settled in west Woodlawn. Woodlawn was one of the first new territories for both gangs. These were significant settlements by both of these organization as they remain on these streets in present years in large numbers.
In November of 1959 the Blackstone Rangers street gang was formed that battled Egyptian Cobras and Devil’s Disciples. The Rangers settle in east Woodlawn which was in Cobra territory. This was the beginning of another permanent settlement in Woodlawn but the Rangers were founded on these streets.
In the year 1960 the Blackstone Rangers became much larger and more organized as they became well-known in Woodlawn. Rangers, Disciples and Cobras often acted as protectors of the community regulating and/or removing criminal elements in the community. The downside was members of these gangs often went astray and began behaving the same way as the criminals their organization vowed to protect Woodlawn from. It became difficult for leaders to run these gangs as they got bigger.
By the year 1960 white flight had nearly ran its full coarse as Woodlawn was not 89% black. The rest of the whites left within a year or two.
Poverty and exploitation from local merchants and slum lords brought about the need for “The Woodlawn Organization” or “TWO” that led protests against slum lords and other unfair exploitations and they also worked with the gangs in the neighborhood to help them find legitimate jobs; however, their efforts proved unsuccessful as the neighborhood fell into a further state of deterioration and several socioeconomic issues especially after TWO lost funding to the gangs, the gangs then began working with syndicates to sell Heroin and Cocaine.
Whole entire apartment complexes closed down and were left to stand abandoned and deteriorate. Renovations and conversions of building attempts failed over the years as many halfway completed building conversions lined the streets of the neighborhood. Gangs, drugs and violence had an intense hold on the community in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s as all renovation plans went up in smoke. It got to the point where more than half of the neighborhood moved out in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, leaving several more abandoned businesses, buildings and houses. Woodlawn set the record for the most foreclosures.
Woodlawn became the neighborhood of intense gang activity on behalf of the Black P Stones as they grew from being just the small Blackstone Rangers group to an empire by the later 1960s. The Disciples became a permanent and would always have a hard-core element in Woodlawn. The Supreme Gangsters arrived on these streets in 1968 and became a big part of these streets. In the year 1981 when the Black Gangster Disciple nation was ended making Disciples choose to go with the Gangsters of the Black Disciples there was a strong following on both sides for Woodlawn establishing a healthy amount of Black Disciples. The Black Gangster Disciple following was significantly stronger which is why the Gangster Disciples have such a strong presence in Woodlawn up to present years. The El Rukns had a major presence in Woodlawn in the late 70s up to the early 1990s as this organization purchased multiple properties for their endeavors. El Rukns violently opposed crack cocaine in Woodlawn and often declared violent gang wars against Disciples and Cobras. Woodlawn Black P Stones refused to allow El Rukns remove them in the 1980s and the Stones did not resort to inviting Vice Lords to flip them. These were some of the most resilient and toughest Stones in Chicago. The Egyptian Cobras would eventually become the Mickey Cobras and never left this area as the Mickey Cobras have perhaps their strongest section in the city in Woodlawn. Just like South Shore Woodlawn has always been the home of the heavy hitters in the Gangster Disciples, Black Disciples, Black P Stones and Mickey Cobras.
Woodlawn has struggled since the 1960s with drugs, violence and heavy gang activity. Woodlawn is often listed as one of the top violent neighborhoods in Chicago as crime rates are well-above national averages.
This neighborhood has only experienced a few renovations mainly near or in Jackson Park. Woodlawn is a very blighted neighborhood with several boarded up shuttered homes and buildings on every block, some homes and buildings have been shuttered for decades and are in a state of severe decay. The far east side of the neighborhood is not blighted and has some better off homes and functioning businesses.
Woodlawn is the birthplace of the Black P Stones.
This is the list of significant gangs that have walked these streets over time:
Black P Stones Established 1959-present years
61st to 63rd, Langley to Evans (Chief Town) Established 1959-present years
62nd to 63rd, Blackstone to Stoney Island (Stoney Spot) Established 1959-present years
64th to 65th, Blackstone to Stoney Island (Dipset 650) Established 1959-present years
Blackstone from 63rd to 67th (Mecca) Established 1959-present years
Harper from 63rd to 64th (Historic Harper’s Boys turf of 1959)
Ellis from 65th to 67th (Ellis Rebel Stones)
67th & Stoney Island (Southmoor Hotel, The Crest Hotel) Established 1969
64th & Harper (The Harper Building, El Rukns)
63rd & Woodlawn (The Stone Hedge, El Rukns)
64th & Kenwood (The African Hut Restaurant, Alahambra, El Rukns)
64th& Woodlawn (The Pyramid Towers, El Rukns)
Woodlawn & Minerva (Morroco, El Rukns)
Four Corner Hustlers
Cottage Grove from 64th to 65th (Grip Side)
Black Disciples Established as Devil’s Disciples 1959-present years
66th to 67th, Champlain to Evans (Chrisworld)
64th to 65th, Maryland to Cottage Grove (TYMB)
60th & Rhodes
Mickey Cobras Established as Egyptian Cobras 1959-present years
60th to 61st, Langley to Cottage Grove (800 YM)
64th to 67th, Langley to Cottage Grove (Mickey City)
63rd to 67th, Cottage Grove to Woodlawn
65th & Cottage Grove (Shared with Four Corner Hustlers)
65th & Greenwood
Gangster Disciples Established as Devil’s Disciples 1959-present years, established as Supreme Gangsters 1968-present years
63rd Street from Rhodes to St. Lawrence
67th & Champlain
67th & Kenwood
67th & St. Lawrence (Dark Side)
63rd to 65th, Eberhart to Rhodes (EBT)
63rd to 64th, Rhodes to Champlain (STL Tookaville)
62nd to 63rd, Drexel to Ingleside (Roc Creek Dro City)
62nd to 63rd, Greenwood to University (Mac Creek Vicworld)
63rd to 65th, Ingleside to Greenwood (Snoblock BNC Dro City)
66th to 67th, Maryland to Ingleside (D Block Dro City)
65th to 67th, University to Woodlawn (Sawblock Dro City)
67th to 69th, Langley to Cottage Grove (Trap City Zone 7)
61st & Langley
All images below are vacant properties at the time of the photograph. All images below are courtesy of Google Maps.