Annual Woodlawn Community Summit

Woodlawn is a predominately mixed-income African-American community that for years was seen as a “community of last resort,” despite its prime location. The community is located on Chicago’s lakefront, just eight miles from the city’s downtown Loop area. To the north is Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, and to Woodlawn’s east are the South Shore neighborhood and Jackson Park, one of the city’s premier parks and golf courses. Woodlawn includes zip codes 60637 and 60649.

By the early 1960s Woodlawn was a predominantly African American neighborhood with a population of nearly 90,000 people. 63rd street was one of the busiest streets on the South Side and was famous for its jazz clubs. Despite its bustle, Woodlawn was an economically deteriorating community, and attempts to revive its citizenry were short-lived and fractured.

Chicago MapThe community escaped the riots that devastated the West Side after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. Nevertheless the last remaining white business owners fled. A rash of arsons destroyed a reported 362 abandoned buildings between 1968 and 1971.

Woodlawn has slowly started to rebound, but community interest and investment is a necessity. In the 1990 census, Woodlawn had approximately 27,000 individuals, living in 10,000 households. Over 98% of the population was African American, over half were on some form of public aid, and the median household income was over $13,000. As of 2011, according to city-data.com, the median household income is over $28,000 yet falls considerably behind Chicago at large with a median household income of more than $43,600.   (Source: City-Data)

Residents have joined together to create a more visually stimulating community. Along the streets are bike trails; alleys are well-lit and paved; and where there were once vacant lots, neighborhood gardens now provide residents with fresh organic fruits and vegetables as well as colorful flowers. The private housing market is returning with rehab rental and condo units. And Woodlawn schools have seen great improvements with the International Baccalaureate Program at the Andrew Carnegie School and the African-centered curriculum of the Woodlawn Community School.