Abstract

Uptown, on Chicago’s north side, was home to thousands of Appalachian migrants in the 1960s. Known fondly as Hillbilly Heaven for the numerous honky-tonk bars, and concentration of southern whites, Uptown was eyed for urban renewal by an elite group of business owners and civic leaders who referred to it as the Hillbilly Ghetto. This group strongly supported a plan for a college that would raze many of the buildings occupied by Appalachian migrants. Kentuckian, Charles "Chuck" Geary mounted strident opposition to the plan for the college by organizing neighborhood residents under the name Voice of the People. He was aided by architect and planner Rodney and Sydney Wright, who were part of a new movement of advocacy planners whose goal was to involve the poor in urban planning. This confluence of people and events resulted in an alternative plan for the college called Hank Williams Village—a multi-purpose housing and commercial development patterned after a southern town. Chuck Geary proposed the name because it captured the notion of Hillbilly Heaven and dominance of white Appalachians in Uptown. The Village plan failed to win the support of the local renewal board and was never built. However, it remains as a significant example of Appalachian migrants resisting displacement from urban renewal.

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