People Out West: West Side Chicago Gangs
From the Vice Lords to the smaller factions of the New Breeds and the Black Souls, the West Side might not has received the recognition from the media as the South Side, but with the streets and the gangs in them there is little difference between either side.
To truly understand the history of Chicago West Side gangs a breakdown of the community must be understood to learn how gangs grew on the city’s West Side.
During the great migration of black families leaving communities in the southern states for a better life, many founded their way in the Low Ends, or the historic neighborhood of Bronzeville.
When Chicago began the process of urban renewal in the Low Ends, much of the community was demolished and replaced by Interstate 90 and numerous of housing projects.
With the destruction to Chicago’s original black community, the black population relocated into other parts of the city with the West Side being one of the main areas, even though there was already an existing black population in certain sections of the West Side.
Starting with neighborhoods along Madison then into the community of North Lawndale that was later followed by the movement into the Austin neighborhood, the West Side became one of Chicago’s largest areas to house the city’s black population.
The West Side Chicago gangs date back to the early days of the West Side, 1950s and 1960s, as the creation was needed for protection from other races as the newly arrived African-Americans were constantly abused and mistreated due to them not being wanted in the community they relocated into from the Low Ends.
One of the largest gangs in the country is the Vice Lords, who started as the first black gang on the West Side in a community locally known as the Holy City within the boundaries of the North Lawndale neighborhood.
What would begin as the 14th Street Clovers in the North Lawndale neighborhood would expand into numerous factions like the Conservative Vice Lords, Traveling Vice Lords, Mafia Insane Vice Lords, Unknown Vice Lords, Cicero Insane Vice Lords, and others.
The Vice Lords would later dominate the West Side in mostly every area other than the K Town section, which has been known for a few West Side gangs like the Gangster Disciples, and specific blocks along Madison and in the Austin community.
With Madison Street being the heart of the West Side, it would only be right for a number of Chicago West Side gangs to be created around one of the city’s largest streets.
One gang that has seen much growth is the Four Corner Hustlers, a gang that expanded from being solely around Madison to growing as far as the South Shore neighborhood on the East Side.
Starting during the 1960s and rising throughout the 1970s, the Four Corner Hustlers are one of the largest gangs of the West Side Chicago ghetto areas, especially in the Austin neighborhood.
The New Breeds, which were originally known as the Black Gangsters and were once aligned with Larry Hoover’s Black Gangster Disciples, claimed the ABLA Homes (Abbott Homes, Brooks Homes, Loomis Courts, Adams Homes) or the Village as their main ‘hood.
The New Breeds would also have other sections of the West Side, mostly around Madison or Pulaski in the K Town section, as well growing into having one of the largest neighborhoods in the South Side, Pocket Town.
One of the many gangs that were created around the West Side’s Madison Street is the Black Souls who are one of the smaller Chicago gangs but it should be noted that they held their own in numerous of Chicago’s infamous blocks along Madison.
Many West Side Chicago gangs grew in power and expanded to other sides of Chicago, the suburbs and other cities of Illinois, while also expanding into communities like Memphis and Jackson, MS.
While gangs in have been given a number of negative labels, in Chicago’s early days many of the West Side gangs were involved in politics and efforts to better their community.
Their efforts were results from the obstacles that black families were put through, during the 1940s and 1950s, as an attempt to keep them from moving into the West Side neighborhoods.
Eventually redlining and other practices by landowners and banks would place Chicago’s black population in certain designated areas as most of the West Side neighborhoods became predominantly black as white flight eventually changed the outlook of the community.
These designated areas would eventually become rundown due to absentee landlords and for-profit scams by property owners that left properties in conditions that were unlivable and had hundreds of tenants evicted, due to earning a profit from insurance companies.
Also, job opportunities became limited as various industries in the area closed, which would lead West Side gangs to become built more like an organization that the community could benefit from.
Currently, the West Side Chicago ghetto of North Lawndale and neighborhoods around Madison have become less populated, due to gentrification and the large amounts of vacant properties, as the Austin neighborhood holds a bulk of Chicago’s West Side black population.
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*Note: All information is provided either through people of the community, outside sources, and/or research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.