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Chicago's Extreme Segregation Laid Bare in Red Line Ride

By Justin Breen | January 7, 2016 5:36am | Updated on February 15, 2016 10:59am
 Connected Division
Connected Division
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CHICAGO — Austyn Wyche spent a good part of several months riding the Red Line to document and photograph what most Chicagoans know: The city is extremely segregated.

The 18-year-old Kenwood Academy graduate and Chatham native rode the Red Line from 95th Street to Howard Street — and back — several times, watching and snapping photos as the races of the car's occupants shifted in patterns.

His work was self-published in a book and online piece called "Connected Division," which Wyche described as his way of "focusing on segregation in Chicago using the CTA Red Line as a platform."

"I just wanted to bring awareness to segregation and at the same time give people artwork to appreciate," said Wyche, now a freshman psychology major at Morehouse College.

It's no secret Chicago is racially segregated — in fact, it's the third most segregated in the nation, the Tribune reported Monday, behind Milwaukee and New York City. "Most people living in Chicago reside in neighborhoods that have a little more diversity than they did a decade ago," a researcher with the Brookings Institute told the paper.

Wyche, who didn't visit the North Side until he was 13, could not believe the changes in riders as he ventured from Roseland to Rogers Park. He said the Red Line was filled with all black riders on the South Side until about 35th Street, when a few white passengers started to trickle in. A real shift began at Roosevelt, where black riders departed the train and dozens of white riders entered. By the time he reached the North Side, Wyche said he was one of only a few black riders.

Wyche would exit the train at Howard Street for a few minutes and re-enter the same car for the return south.

"Completely all white," was how Wyche described the passengers.

Venturing south, white people stayed on the train until about 35th Street, and it was an all-black group the rest of the way, Wyche said.

"Downtown was the only place where it was truly diverse," Wyche said. "Otherwise, it was black and white."

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