The story of the White family in Chicago begins in 1956, with 13-year-old Hardys rides a train north with his uncle. They started their journey in Tupelo, Miss. Their destination was Union Station in Chicago. Hardis was now part of the Great Migration, one of the millions of African Americans who have come north, in pursuit of a better life.
Life in Mississippi was often stressful. Young Hardis was required to choose cotton, bringing in 150 pounds a day. Chicago was an instant wonder, with skyscrapers and a bustling street life. He and his uncle, who came to Chicago to join the family members who had already settled there, arrived days before the city hosted the 1956 Democracy Conference.
He said, “I immediately loved him.”
When he was 23 years old, he married a movie, a fellow from the South. In 1967, they bought the house in La Porte – a two-story apartment in the Chicago language, on the city’s west side – for $ 23,500. They were among the first African American couples on the block, Hardis remembers.
But the following year, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and riots caused in Chicago. “This is the time when most companies started going out,” Hardis said. “Car and supermarket agents. When the business goes out of the neighborhood, this is the neighborhood.”
White families were fleeing, invited by unscrupulous real estate agents.
“Things are changing fast,” Hardis said. “They had rumors circling around them, where they tell the whites that the blacks were moving, so it’s best for them to sell their belongings.”
Some white neighbors vowed to stay, then they left anyway. “A man, three doors, told me he wouldn’t sell his place just because the blacks were on the move,” Hardees said. “This is the last time I saw him.”
The home in Laporte was the center of the White Family World. Dora, Nissan and China attended school just around the corner. Hardis worked overnight as a meat filler at the Oscar Meyer factory, and stirred sausage containers at chilling temperatures on the factory floor, and was a nurse movie at Cook County General Hospital. More family members – Hardis’ mother, sister, son-in-law, and their children – were living in the loft.