Chicago Freedom Movement

Fulfilling the Dream

Al Raby


Albert Raby was a Chicago public school teacher when he became active in the civil rights movement. Soon after, he was at the head of Chicago’s local movement, as convenor of the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO). In this role, he served as the link between the national civil rights movement and local organizations, and had a great impact on the course of the movement.

Raby had been born into poverty in Chicago, and dropped out of school in eighth grade. He self-educated himself and became involved in union activity. After a stint in the army, he earned his high school diploma and then went to school to become a teacher. He was teaching at a school on the West Side of Chicago when he helped found Teachers for Integrated Schools (TFIS). TFIS selected him to be their delegate to the CCCO, and on January 11, 1964, he was appointed the organization’s convenor [Anderson and Pickering 129].

The CCCO was crucial in bringing the national civil rights movement to Chicago. When Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Chicago on his People to People tour, he recognized that the “CCCO represented the strongest indigenous civil rights movement in the North,” [Ralph 39] and he appreciated the help he received during his three-day visit. When the movement was officially launched in early 1966, Raby became its co-chairman.

As co-chair of the Agenda Committee, Raby supported the decision to choose open housing as the direct action focus for the Chicago Freedom Movement in the summer of 1966. Even before the movement began, Raby had criticized the segregationist policies of the Chicago Real Estate Board. Along with King in July 1966, he attended the initial meeting with Mayor Richard J. Daley where the demands of the movement were presented. Raby also served as a leader of open-housing marches, using his position as a local leader to draw support from those in Chicago communities affected by housing segregation.

The Chicago Freedom Movement was never a smooth operation. Raby did not see eye-to-eye with other leading activists like James Bevel on every matter, but in the end, the movement was able to mobilize enough marchers and produce enough pressure to bring city leaders to the table.

During the Summit negotiations, Raby was an effective negotiator. Accustomed to empty promises from the government, he sought guarantees of substantive progress in opening up all of Chicago’s housing market to blacks. In the end, Raby believed that a movement had to institutionalize demands because its power was inherently short-lived. Raby therefore publicly endorsed the Summit Agreement and worked hard to ensure that promises made by city officials, realtors, and business leaders were fulfilled.

After the formal end of the open-housing marches and the departure of SCLC from Chicago, Raby continued to lead the CCCO and its protests.

In 1983 he served as the campaign director for Harold Washington during his historic election as Chicago’s first black mayor. He then served as the director of the city’s Human Relations Commission. He died suddenly and prematurely in the late 1980s.


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