When Hazel Johnson (1935-2011) and her husband moved to Chicago’s Altgeld Gardens neighborhood, she did not know that the public housing buildings there had been built over a toxic dump. She did realize that something was not right when her husband died of cancer at a young age and she found out that many other young neighborhood residents also had been diagnosed with cancer. Johnson began to investigate and learned that the Southeast Side of Chicago was surrounded by 50 landfills, 250 leaking underground storage tanks, incinerators, sewage treatment facilities and paint factories.
In 1979, Johnson founded People for Community Recovery (PCR) which educated residents about urban environmental issues and which fought environmental racism. Johnson, the “Mother of Environmental Justice,” received the 1992 President's Environment and Conservation Challenge award. In 1994, she was part of a group of activists who worked to have President Bill Clinton sign an executive order on environmental justice. Though Johnson died in 2011, the work of PCR continues with her daughter Cheryl serving as executive director.
Why this stop? Once the Red Line Extension of the L is built (hopefully during our lifetimes), there will be stop in the Atlgeld Gardens neighborhood. For now though, the closest L station is 5 miles north--the 95th Street Red Line stop.
Watch this video about the work of Hazel Johnson
Connect Take an in-person or virtual toxic tour of the Lake Calumet Industrial Area with People for Community Recovery. Check out their website for details.
Photo credit - People for Community Recovery