Florence Scala (1918-2007), the daughter of Italian immigrants, grew up in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood. During her formative years, she took classes at Jane Addams’ Hull House where seeds of social justice were planted in Scala’s heart and mind.
Scala continued to live in Little Italy after she got married but the neighborhood was about to change. In the 1960’s when the University of Illinois wanted to build a campus in Chicago, Mayor Richard J. Daley gave them a large parcel of land in the Little Italy neighborhood. Stunned and angry residents marched in protest with Scala leading the way. When a sit-in at City Hall had proved ineffective, Scala filed lawsuits against the City of Chicago and the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
Though she lost that battle, Scala ran for a seat on the Chicago City Council. Thugs working for her opponents bombed the porch of her home. She stayed in the race but was not elected. Studs Terkel said, “She tried to save the soul of Chicago. It was a glorious sight.”
Why this stop? The Pink Line Polk Street station is located in the part of the Little Italy neighborhood that was not bulldozed in the 1960’s.
Learn more about Urban Renewal/Urban Betrayal in the Little Italy neighborhood and Florence Scala’s role as a leader.
Photo Credit -- Special Collections & University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago Library, Florence Scala Collection