The Chicago Gang History Project is writing a history of Chicago’s gangs from the immigrant settlements and ghetto of the 20th century to the changing neighborhoods and ghetto of the 21st.

No other group of Americans are more stereotyped than gangs. Yet, Chicago’s neighborhoods have always had gangs. The gangs have produced mayors and politicians, pro athletes, and businessmen. Gangs also have shed blood, sold drugs, and are filling the prisons.

The history of gangs is the history of Chicago. It is more than a story of crime, drugs, and violence. It is a story of immigrants and migrants, neighborhoods and nations, industry and deindustrialization, workers and entrepreneurs, masculinity and femininity, rebellion and resignation, nihilism and politics. It is a story of the persistance of the ghetto. In short, it is the story of Chicago, as told from its margins.

But why has Chicago had so many gangs? Why haven’t they gone away? How are they different today than the past, and how are they the same? These are the central issues we intend to explore.

The Chicago Gang History Project is interviewing current and former gang members and get on the record the views of those from the community, universities, and law enforcement who’ve been there. We are compiling documents of all types, photographs, interview transcripts, newspaper and magazine articles, and rare reports. We have constructed a website to share any non-confidential public information with the public:

If you want to be interviewed, know some one who should be interviewed, or have any documents or photos on Chicago gangs, please contact us at or 312-996-8361.


The Chicago Gang History Project is affliated with the Great Cities Institute. Its Director is John Hagedorn, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at UIC.