Resource: Rewriting Beginnings: The Lessons of Gautreaux

By: Janet Koven Levit

October 1, 1994

Can happy endings resuscitate murky beginnings? When the Gautreaux litigation began in 1966, few believed that the courts could remedy the seemingly intractable racial discrimination plaguing Chicago's public housing system. As remedial efforts faltered throughout the 1970s, critics began to prey upon Gautreaux as a prototypical example of the legal problems inherent in court-ordered structural reform. Today, in contrast, the policies Gautreaux ultimately embraced are lauded nationally. The Gautreaux Program has effectively relocated over five thousand minority, lowincome families in integrated areas throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. These families are reaping unanticipated economic and social benefits, including educational advancement and promising employment opportunities. While these policy successes are impressive, they do not squarely redress the legal criticisms of Gautreaux.