Sylvia Weinberg History Interview by Amy Murrell

AM: What was the housing thing in Chicago? What were they trying to do?
SW: They were trying to, (A), pressure the real estate industry not to segregate people, and that’s what was happening at the time. A white family with any kind of x number of dollars and needing three bedrooms and two baths would go into a real estate office, and they were shown a certain group of houses. And the same family-and boy, we tested this, we know-and the same family with the same number of children and the same aspirations and the same income and so forth would be told, “Yes, there’s fine house for you in the certain edge in Evanston, but there really isn’t much of that kind of a thing in Winnetka,” which, of course, there was.Well, we managed to get the first black family into Kenilworth, and they turned out to be absolutely delightful people, and the next thing you knew, they were right in there. One family bought a house in Winnetka, and sometimes you had to dodge the realtors and pick up people that were selling houses on the open market. It’s called “open occupancy.” Do you know the word? Okay.

They had to move-oh, they had to take occupancy at a certain time or wanted to, and they couldn’t get occupancy at the beginning of school. They had two teenage daughters. They lived way out. So I took in the two girls for the school days, you know, five days a week. It was nice for my kids, too.

I think that’s the best I can do on that. I mean, I was not unusual. There were a couple hundred people that were absolutely-and I didn’t do any more than my share. I was not anybody remarkable.

At that point comes the Summer Project in Chicago with Martin Luther King and all of that.

AM: This summer, is this-
SW: I can’t give you the date. Martin Luther King came up to Chicago-well, he was living in Chicago and working down there, but came to the North Shore, and there is a big park in the middle of Winnetka called the village green, and there was to be a meeting there. Incidentally, the police chief’s wife was a member of the League of Women Voters, and she was in on all of this. We knew an awful lot of people, and they had to have security. They drew security from all of the North Shore suburbs. The place was about as secure as a place could be.Martin Luther King addressed the audience. The place was packed. No chairs, everybody on blankets, and it was door-to-door packed. And just recently my son gave a speech at the University of Illinois about his background, and he brought that up. I was really amazed. He was seven years old. But this kind of a thing stuck. There were, of course, people of all ages there and of all ways of life. So this was the climate.