Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach

Dating back to the race riots of 1919, Chicago has had a history of youth violence connected to the use of public parks and beaches. Rainbow Beach, extending from 75th to 79th along Lake Michigan in South Shore, was one location where black and white youth vied for space. For decades a small enclave of African American families had lived near the steel mills of South Chicago. However, black families had for the most part refrained from letting their children use this public beach because of longstanding hostility from lifeguards and white bathers. As residential patterns changed during the 1950s and 1960s, tensions again began to mount among youth over the use of public space. On Saturday and Sunday, July 7 and 8, 1961, an interracial coalition of demonstrators, many of them members of the NAACP Youth Council, staged a “freedom wade-in” at Rainbow Beach. The coalition's objective was to use the direct-action civil demonstration methods employed by black and white students across the South to heighten public awareness and challenge de facto segregationist policies in Chicago. On Sunday, despite the presence of the police, gangs of white youth armed with stones attacked the demonstrators.

Bubacz, Stephen S. Diary, entries for July 1961. Stephen S. Bubacz Papers, University of Illinois at Chicago.
Hirsch, Arnold. Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940–1960. 1983.