City Stories

Gangsta Island: The Streets of Gary Indiana

gary indiana ghetto


Gangsta Island:

The Gary Indiana Ghetto Story

The streets of the Gary Indiana ghetto changed during the crack era of the 1980s and 1990s, but what some may not know is the city of Gary has been rough long before the introduction of drugs.

Once a segregated city, with black people only being allowed to live in the Midtown section of the city, Gary, Indiana became famous for the employment opportunities that thousands of workers sought after in the US Steel factories.

While the steel industry helped the city of Gary to thrive and grow, the steel industry also helped the city to decline as factory closures led to thousands of job losses and a large exodus out of the city for over half of the population.

Streets of Gangsta Island

The streets of the Gary Indiana ghetto were some of the roughest in the country, especially during the 1990s as the city became crowned for having the highest homicide rate in the country, given the city the title of the “Murder Capital”.

Being part of the Chicagoland area, the city did have some gang influenced as far as Vice Lords and Gangster Disciples, but most parts of Gary were more neighborhood influenced than being impacted by Chicago’s gang affiliations.

gary indiana ghetto delaney projects gary indiana

The Dorie Miller Projects of the Gary Indiana ghetto

Many people heard about CCA out of Concord area, the Bronx off Clark Road, the notorious Ivanhoe Projects, 5th Avenue, or 21st Street from the East to West side with communities like Delaney projects, Tarrytown, and Marshalltown.

Communities of Gary Indiana

A small city that sits about thirty minutes away from the larger city of Chicago is divided into three sides of town, the West Side, the East Side, and the South Side.

The Gary Indiana ghetto of the West Side stretches from the Tolleston neighborhood to the areas of Concord and the Bronx off of Burr Street.

gary indiana ghetto gary indiana west side

5th Avenue of the West Side of Gary Indiana

The South Side of the Gary, Indiana is mostly made up of the Glen Park neighborhood, based around Broadway and expanding from 35th to 49th Avenue.

gary indiana ghetto

Aetna of the East Side of Gary Indiana

The East Side, which is mainly located east of Broadway, is the smaller side of Gary Indiana with neighborhoods like the Valley, GuttaVille, Aetna and others off of 21st.

Gary Indiana History

The city’s population began to increase during the early part of the 1900s as businesses and communities were being constructed in the area.

With the arrival of World War I, many southern African-Americans were given the opportunity to work in some of the city’s wartime factories which explains the move for black families into the city of Gary Indiana.

With the new residents of African-Americans, many felt anger which would later lead to the growing movement of the Klu Klux Klan and the mistreatment of many Gary’s black residents.

With the US Steel factory being the main hub for Gary Indiana’s financial progress, the city became one of the most wealthiest and popular towns in the country.

With the city of Gary thriving, its downtown area became known heavily as well the number of businesses and entertainment along Broadway as Gary was the heart of northern Indiana.

gary indiana ghetto

Gary Indiana’s Midtown section.

Like other cities, Gary Indiana was very segregated for many African-Americans as many would constantly have confrontations simply because of their race with black families only being allowed in the Midtown section.

Starting during the 1950s and 1960s, the city began to integrate the two racial groups of Gary with one another, which led to racial tension as African-Americans accounted for one-thirds of the US Steel factory workers.

Decline of Gary Indiana Ghetto

Unfortunately, by the time African-Americans began to take control of the city, by electing their first mayor, many businesses and white families began to leave for more suburban Lake County towns, starting during the 1960s.

The exit out of Gary was during the time that thousands of jobs were being lost in the local steel factories, which helped transformed the city into the Gary Indiana ghetto.

gary indiana ghetto

The rundown community of Marshalltown Gary Indiana

These factors were the main reasons for the city of Gary to become what it is today, a place that lacks the proper resources that most cities need to function.

Check out more on Gary and other Indiana communities.

Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

Gary Indiana History Sources:

*Lane, James. “City of the Century: A History of Gary, Indiana”. Indiana University Press. 1978

^ Davich, Jerry. “Lost Gary, Indiana”. History Press. 2015