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In 1966, Alexander Polikoff, a thirty-nine-year old volunteer ACLU attorney and a partner in a Chicago law firm, met three friends to discuss a pro bono case. Over lunch, they talked about the Chicago Housing Authority construction program. All the new public housing, it seemed, was going into black neighborhoods. If discrimination was prohibited in public schools, wasn't it also prohibited in public housing? And so began Gautreaux v. CHA and HUD, a case that would roll on year after year, decade after decade, carrying Polikoff and his intrepid colleagues to the nation's Supreme Court. Despite legal roadblocks and political constraints, the case would set the stage for a nationwide experiment aimed at ending the concentration - and racialization - of poverty through public housing. Inspiring and absorbing, the narrative of Gautreaux as told by its principal lawyer moves with ease through local and national civil rights history. Ultimately, this story - itself a critical, still-unfolding chapter in recent American history - urges us to take an essential step toward ending racial inequality, which Alexis de Tocqueville prophetically named America's "most formidable evil."
Northwestern University Press
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