The Chicago family’s story of the White family began in 1955, when 5-year-old Hardys boarded a train north with her uncle. They traveled to Tupelo, Miss., To their destination, Union Station, Chicago. Hardis was now part of the Great Migration, one of the millions of African-Americans who came north, wanting a better life.
Mississippi’s life was often in desperation. The young Hardys needed to pick up cotton, usually bringing in 150 pounds a day. Chicago was an instant wonder, with its skyscrapers and street life buzzing. He and his uncle, who had come to Chicago to join family members who had already settled there, arrived a few days before the city convened a Democratic convention in 1996.
“I loved it right now,” he said.
When he was 23, married to fellow South African replacement Velma, in 1967, they bought the house in Lappert – a bi-flat in Chicago parlance on the west side of town – for $ 23,500. Hardis reminded that they were among the first African-American couple on the block.
But the following year, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and riots broke out in Chicago. Hardys said, “Most of the business starts. “Car dealership, supermarket. When the business goes out of the way, that is the moment. “
White families who were being solicited by dishonest real estate agents were fleeing.
“Things were changing fast,” Hardis said. “Rumors spread around them, telling whites that blacks were entering, so they could sell their property better.”
Some swore to stay in the white neighborhood, then left anyway. “A guy with three boys down told me that he would not sell his place just because the blacks entered,” Hardis said. “And this is the last time I saw him.”
The home in Lapert was the centerpiece of the White family’s world. Dora, Nissan, and Sheena attended school around the corner. Harkis worked overnight as a meatpacker at an Oscar Mayer plant, stirred up sausage vats at cold temperatures on the factory floor, and Velma was a nurse at Cook County Public Hospital. Further members of the family – Hardys’ mother and her sister and siblings and their children – lived in the upper flat.