In November 1959, residents of Deerfield, IL learned a housing developer planned to sell homes in the village to black buyers as well as white buyers. Many residents of the all-white Chicago suburb opposed the development. Some residents opposed integration altogether or cited fears that their home values would decline after integration. A smaller group of residents supported the development, forming the group Deerfield Citizens for Human Rights.
In the context of the civil rights movement, the crisis in Deerfield quickly became a national fight over integration in the post-war suburban housing boom. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke on the issue, saying, “I have no doubt that integration will work in Deerfield.” Eleanor Roosevelt visited the village and said, “Deerfield is the Little Rock of housing.”
During the weeks that followed, the Deerfield Park Board pushed for a referendum to condemn the developer’s land for new parks. Though previous referendums had failed earlier that same year, in December 1959, the new referendum passed two-to-one. The developer and Village officials clashed in court over the legality of the land condemnation and the developer’s rights. Ultimately, in 1963, the courts found no proof of concrete racial animus on the part of the Village, and the land became public parks that stand today.
Continuing a community tradition, the Library is inviting residents, historians, and experts to offer new insights into this history. We have updated our archives, made new acquisitions and even new discoveries. We invite you to join us for a series of discussions, lectures, and other opportunities to reflect on the 60 years since the fight to integrate Deerfield began.