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MLK’s Midwest Crusade

Martin Luther King, Jr. prepares to give a speech in Chicago in front of the microphone
Martin Luther King, Jr. prepares to give a speech in Chicago in front of the microphone

MLK’s Midwest Crusade

In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. staged the Chicago Freedom Movement, his first and only civil rights crusade outside the South.

In 1966, Martin Luther King Jr. staged his first and only Civil Rights crusade outside the South: the Chicago Freedom Movement.

The Chicago Campaign took aim at several forms of structural racism, including discrimination in education, employment, and health care.

King’s biggest focus in Chicago was fair housing, specifically housing discrimination by real estate brokers, banks and home lenders, and legal restrictions.

King and his wife, Coretta, moved into a dilapidated West Side Chicago apartment to draw attention to the issue.  He and his supporters protested in front of banks and real estate offices, and marched on Chicago’s City Hall, with King symbolically posting a list of anti-racist demands on the building’s door. 

During a march through Chicago’s all-white Cage Park neighborhood, King was struck by a rock thrown by a racist protester, moving him to say, “I have never seen even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’m seeing in Chicago.”

The Chicago Freedom Movement spurred fair housing protests throughout the Midwest.  The March on Milwaukee was one such movement, with activists protesting in favor of fair housing for 200 consecutive nights. King encouraged the Milwaukee efforts, sending telegrams of support.

Congress, spurred by King’s campaign, began years-long consideration of fair housing legislation.  One week after King’s assassination, the law finally passed as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which remains the federal government’s core fair housing law.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington
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