Delayed Synergy: Challenging Housing Discrimination in Chicago in the Streets and in the Courts

Rubinowitz, Leonard S.,Shaw, Michelle | April 1, 2022

During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Montgomery Improvement Association combined a boycott with a successful constitutional challenge to bus segregation laws, producing more progress to desegregate the buses than either strategy could have brought about on its own. The Montgomery Improvement Association’s approach was a paradigm of the synergy between a social movement and social change litigation. This Article argues for opportunities for synergy between social movements and social change litigation in three ways: 1) extending the time frame; 2) joining the forces of two separate organizations to produce change, unlike the single organization in Montgomery; and 3) creating an innovative new program that is different from either of the earlier separate strategies. The Article takes housing desegregation in metropolitan Chicago as a case study. As a result of close, ongoing collaboration between two organizations, substantially more low-income Black families in metropolitan Chicago secured affordable housing of their choice than in the decade before the two organizations joined forces and produced “delayed synergy.”