Struggle for Racial Equality

In 1951, the Hoards moved in Chesterfield at 402 East 91st Street. They were one of the first families of color to move into the community. Their garage was set on fire, windows were broken and a host of racial slurs were aimed toward them. But, this still did not stop blacks from moving into the area. The ethnic residents of Chesterfield began noticing a trend of blacks moving into predominately white areas. The people of Chesterfield formed a community-based organization to prevent black flight in the community and called the organization, The Chesterfield Community Council. In 1955, another black family moved into Chesterfield.

Mr. & Mrs. Frank A. Sayre and their children moved to 447 East 91st Street. The Sayre’s were also victims of racial violence from the residents. Frank Sayre was a liquor salesman with a large family. Frank had an extra room built onto his home for his growing family. White neighbors claimed he was using the extra room for a boarding room. In the following years more blacks moved into the area and they also were attacked with racial slurs. These families included Mr. & Mrs. Booker T. Washington, Mr. & Mrs. Augustus Jones, Mr. & Mrs. William Page and many more. Black families requested 24-hour police protection, however, they only received eight hours of police protection. Most men of the household kept a loaded gun by their bedside in case of trouble. The black families of the Chesterfield area knew they could not go on living like this and decided to take action. In 1955, Frank Sayre joined the white-only, Chesterfield Community Council. Sayre gained the respect and admiration of his white neighbors. In February of 1957, Frank Sayre became the first black president of the Chesterfield Community Council. What was astonishing is that Sayre was the only black member of the council when the votes were cast. Sayre served as Council President for ten years. Below is a letter Sayre received from one of the white neighbors:

Letter to the Community: June 25,1969

Dear Mothers & Fathers of the Tuley Park area community:

My husband and I need your Help! Last night, I was out on the corner scolding and threatening your boys.

Our whole corner has become a litter dump. Some days, I’ll pick up 4-5 times a day. Today, I quit, I’m losing a battle. Last night they gang up on us, beat the mailbox and deliberately annoyed us. We have lived in this community since it turned Black. Our white friends can’t see why and how we stay. I tell them what fine hard working people you are - that we are not afraid. I tell them your son’s are polite better than some white boys. We built this home in 1941 - we raise our four children here. We love our home. Won’t you please help us - so we are able to stay?

Mrs. Helen Homaker
500 East 91st Place

In 1966, black residents and community leaders fought for open occupancy. Francine Washington, a former resident recalls this period. "I remember, I was about roughly nine years old and my aunt had just bought me a new dress. I tried the dress on and showed my parents in the middle of our front room. My mother and father and new baby brother was in his crib in the room. I paused for a moment, went back into my room. Less than a minute later, a brick came crashing through our front window, landing in the exact same spot I was previously standing. Fragments of the glass landed in my brother’s hair. A blessing from God, nobody was hurt."

The white population began moving into other areas and racial tensions increased. In the 1960s, Tuley Park's white supervisor Jim Tills, made the following statement to some of the black residents. Tills said, "I cannot and will not guarantee any assistance of the safety of Black children in the park, especially in the swimming pool." The park, located at 501 East 91st Street, was a local favorite. Black residents were witnessed escorting children back and forth to the park. In 1963, John Brooks, former Olympic star, became the first black park supervisor for Tuley Park. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Chesterfield Community began to see a severe gang problem.

Struggle Against Gang Violence

Several community leaders such as Rev. Porter of Burnside Community Church, Frank Sayre, Walter Monroe, Curtis Wilson, and Richard Wilson (no relation) led the fight against gang violence. Sgt. Sherwood Williams (former Captain of the Sixth District Police Department) assisted them in their efforts. Nightly radio patrols were formed and the men of the Chesterfield Community volunteered their services. The men worked part-time in neighborhood stores to protect merchants from harassment. The men of Chesterfield were successful at ridding the community of gangs. Their tactics were unity and strength.