The Urban-Crisis Era of the 1960s
T he turbulence of the 1960s was
evident in Suttles’s work, as civil-rights organizations influenced
African-American gangs in Chicago’s Addams area where Suttles studied
gangs. Suttles’s notion that gangs were functional for their communities
was questioned by an upsurge in gang violence in major cities. Walter
Miller’s more negative assessment of gangs’ place in society
is evident in his definition of gangs as “a group of recurrently
associating individuals with identifiable leadership and internal organization,
identifying with or claiming control over territory in the community,
and engaging either individually or collectively in violent or other forms
of illegal behavior” (Miller 1975, 9).
Youth gangs also were deeply involved in various illicit activities, and in some cities, like Chicago, challenged organized crime for control of the local rackets. Jeff Fort’s Blackstone Rangers replaced the Italian Outfit and controlled drug distribution and gambling in parts of Chicago’s South Side. Rates of violence increased as ghetto conditions spawned hopelessness and despair. Studies like Kenneth B. Clark’s 1965 Dark Ghetto argued for redoubled efforts to strengthen ties between the community and their youth. During the civil-rights era, youth gangs were both politicized and looking for a way to survive.