BLACK POWER/WHITE CONTROL: The Struggle of the Woodlawn Organization in Chicago by John Hall Fish

BLACK POWER/WHITE CONTROL: The Struggle of the Woodlawn Organization in Chicago

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This narrative account of neighborhood organizing in a South Side Chicago ghetto contains a good deal of valuable information. Fish, who worked for six years with The Woodlawn Organization (TWO), describes how the group carried out Saul Alinsky's method of fighting City Hall: it built a community coalition frankly based not on ""ideology"" but on getting a better deal for ""our"" turf. In the early '60's TWO fought University of Chicago expansion and school segregation and conducted militant rent strikes. Later it joined the University in a community-control school experiment, supported Mayor Daley's bond issue, and became heavily involved in the federal poverty program. Some of the most notable developments occurred as TWO became part of the OEO counter-insurgency push to co-opt the youth gangs, and ran into other agencies (such as the police) who preferred to break them up. Fish admits that ""The systemic causes of urban decay were beyond TWO's reach"" and that it barely dented physical and social decline, but he insists that the organization's sheer existence was an achievement; he seems to lack the sense of urgency about ghetto life that would forbid him to acclaim ""the process and not the outcome."" His account of the Woodlawn fight with Hyde Park, among other things, tends to show that TWO's strategy pitted ""community"" against ""community"" to the benefit of City Hall, disregarding alternatives that would unite rather than divide. Dense with acronyms, the book demands a purposeful reader; but Fish's forthrightness and fullness make it an important documentary.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1973
Publisher: Princeton Univ. Press