Literary Notes on the Ghetto

"Why they make us live in one corner of the city?"

                                    Bigger Thomas, in Richard Wright's Native Son.  Page 23.

Definitions of the Ghetto

"When I move

Into a neighborhood

Folks fly.


Even every foreigner

That can move, moves.



The moon doesn't run.

Neither does the sun.

In Chicago

They've got covenants


Restricting me

Hemmed in

On the South Side,

Can't breathe free.


But the wind blows there.

I reckon the wind

Must care."

Langston Hughes.  "Restrictive Covenants."

(note: by 1930, three quarters of all Chicago residential properties were bound by restrictive covenants)

The Blackstone Rangers





There they are.

Thirty at the corner

Black, raw, ready. Sores in the City

that do not want to heal.



Gwendolyn Brooks


"You know where the white folks live?"

"Yeah," Gus said, pointing eastward. "Over across the 'line' over there on Cottage Grove Avenue."

"Naw, they don't" Bigger said.

"What do you mean?" Gus asked, puzzled. "Then, where do they live?"

Bigger doubled his fist and struck his solar plexus. "Right down here in my stomach," he said.

Gus looked at Bigger searchingly, then away, as though ashamed. "Yeah, I know what you mean," he whispered.

"Every time I think of 'em, I feel 'em," Bigger said.

"Yeah, and in your chest and throat too" Gus said. "It's like fire."

"And sometimes you can't hardly breathe."  Bigger’s eyes were wide and placid, gazing into space.

                                    Richard Wright, Native Son.  Page 24

If we must die — let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,

Making their mock at our accursed lot.

If we must die —oh, let us nobly die,

So that our precious blood may not be shed

In vain; then even the monsters we defy

Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!

Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;

Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,

And for their thousand blows deal one dath blow!

What though before us lied the open grave?

Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,

Pressed to the wall, dying but fighting back.

Claude McKay. Summer 1919. Liberator , 21.