An Afternoon with the 1966 Chicago Comprehensive Plan

Earlier this week, I had a few spare hours and decided to spend them pulling archival materials for a project for which I’ve been commissioned to conduct data, policy, and archival research around Chicago’s East Garfield Park history. For this, I did a deep dive into Chicago’s planning history and settled on reading through this incredible artifact – the city’s 1966 Comprehensive Plan.

Packed with some incredible 1960s color schemes, the plan divided the city into over a dozen areas, each of which received their own dedicated planning scheme. While thorough in terms of tackling housing, transportation, green space, and industry race is not mentioned once from what I saw – galling given the upheavals across the nation and that Martin Luther King Jr. himself came to Chicago that year to protest the wretched housing conditions forced upon the city’s Blacks. He settled in North Lawndale and agitated the Mayor for months – even getting hit in the head with a brick for his protests. All this is, tellingly, missing from the plans.

And while the profession’s refusal to acknowledge these subjects is better now, its disappointing to think how far we have yet to go to close the gaps that MLK protested in 1966.