Reparations subcommittee recounts Evanston’s history of discriminatory policies and practices


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th). Simmons said an understanding of Evanston’s past policies and practices will help the Reparations Subcommittee advance its agenda

Julia Richardson, Reporter

Dino Robinson Jr., founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center, presented a report of Evanston’s past policies and practices at a reparations subcommittee Friday. Members of the subcommittee said understanding the impact of these policies and practices on the black community is crucial in moving forward with reparations initiatives.

“(This information) is going to be absolutely necessary for us to advance this work, and for our legal department to have what they need to protect the work and protect the policy,” said Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th).

Robinson discussed the city’s history with redlining, as well as housing and zoning policies.

“Historically, there was not a black community… families and residents lived all throughout Evanston,” Robinson said. “What we’re able to see and track is a distinct pattern of these pockets of communities throughout Evanston being zoned out and forcibly moved to one area.”

He advised the subcommittee about the city’s history of discriminatory housing in particular, as many reparations initiatives pertain to housing. Housing efforts include the Home Buyer Assistance Benefit Program, which would assist black first-time homebuyers and remedy past discriminatory practices, and a Home Preservation Benefit Program, which would assist black residents who already own homes.

Robinson said the report was based on information from sources that have been previously written and published. Much of the report relies on a 1924 survey, which broke down policies enacted to regulate Evanston’s growing black population, as well as historian Andrew Wiese and local reporter Larry Gavin.

“We’re not making any attempt to… push a policy, but to provide information for the various groups in the community to utilize once it’s finished toward your efforts while working towards reparations,” Robinson said.

Robinson only presented a part of the full report, which he said he, along with Jenny Thompson from the Evanston History Center, is still developing.

Robinson said the full report looks at redlining, segregated practices, both public and private employment services, schools, housing and zoning policies, policing, lawsuits and current protests. The report incorporates information from as early as 1900.

Robinson estimated that the report would be finished in another month. Once it is finished, it will be published on the reparation subcommittee’s website. He also said it will include a list of resources and audio containing direct quotes from individuals engaged in the issues documented. Many of these oral histories can also be heard at Evanston History Center or on the Shorefront Legacy Center’s website.

Deputy City Attorney Nicholas Cummings said he appreciated the background information that Robinson and members of the community have been able to provide, and has received phone calls from residents offering additional resources.

“We are still looking for official minutes of City Council, as well as specific ordinance numbers and things of that sort, and we’ve been working with the city clerk to try and retrieve that information as well,” Cummings said. “This information that’s provided is certainly very, very helpful, but know that we are still working to make sure that we have the strongest evidence possible to make this successful.”

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