A Chicago gang history snapshot

April 1, 2011

Download Story
(Courtesy Lawrence Hill Books)

When WBEZ’s South Side bureau reporter Natalie Moore tried to find a good book about the history of black street gangs in Chicago she was shocked to find that none existed. So like the great entrepreneurial journalist that she is, she decided to write her own.

Moore teamed up with academic Lance Williams to research one particular South Side gang, and the resulting book is the recently published The Almighty Black P Stone Nation: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of an American Gang.

Moore and Williams’ examine Woodlawn's Blackstone Rangers and the much broader cultural and political forces of the era, both local and national: LBJ’s War on Poverty, the Civil Rights movement, and the Great Migration, to name but a few.

The book also unearths and examines several episodes in Chicago history that might otherwise be lost to the dustbin of history.

One meaty example Moore and Williams explored at a recent speaking event was a federal prosecution that led to the conviction and imprisonment of Blackstone Rangers co-founder, Jeff Fort.

In 1967 the U.S. federal government gave a $1 million job training grant to the Woodlawn Organization, a South Side non-profit cozy with the Rangers. Fort and other Rangers who helped organize the job training were accused of embezzling the money for their own purposes, and were prosecuted and convicted. The fund’s administrators, like the late Bishop Aurthur Brazier, were never accused of crimes.

In this audio excerpt taken from their recent talk, Williams and Moore discuss the incident and talk about whether justice was ever truly served.

Dynamic Range showcases hidden gems unearthed from Chicago Amplified’s vast archive of public events and appears on weekends. Natalie Moore and Lance Williams spoke to an audience assembled by the Society of Midland Authors in February. Click here to hear the event in its entirety, and click here to subscribe to the Dynamic Range podcast.