Telling a different geographic story : garreting, license, and the making of Chicago's Ida B. Wells Homes




Quesal, Susan

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The Ida B. Wells Homes, the first black-occupied housing project built in Chicago, were completed in 1941. Throughout their construction and inhabitation, the black community in Chicago worked to create a self-contained space which would control the visibility/invisibility of its black inhabitants and, symbolically, the black community as a whole. Taking as theoretical grounding Katherine McKittrick’s work on garreting and Susan Lepselter’s work on license, this essay argues that the Ida B. Wells Homes were a South Side garret for the black community, a space in which freedom became defined by its own boundaries and wherein this freedom could work in tandem with dominant geographies of oppression to construct a “different” geographic story. This “different” geography intended to alter perceptions of black life by working against dominant geographic narratives that were prevalent at the time, such as those put forth by the Chicago School of Sociology.



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