Edward Holmgren Papers

Dates: 1944-2003
Size: 4 linear feet
Repository: Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature, 9525 S. Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628
Collection Number: 2009/02
Provenance: Donation of Beth Holmgren, 2009 July 7. Edward Holmgren oral history transcript added by Beth Holmgren, 2010 April 5
Access: No restrictions
Citation: When quoting material from this collection the preferred citation is: Edward Holmgren Papers, [Box #, Folder #], Chicago Public Library, Woodson Regional Library, Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature
Processed by: Jeanie Child, Harsh Archival Processing Project, and Michael Flug, Senior Archivist, Harsh Archival Processing Project

 Biographical Note

Throughout a career spanning six decades--and a half dozen organizations-- Edward L. Holmgren became a nationally-respected leader in the struggle to make integrated, affordable housing open to all. He was born in Chicago 1923 February 24, at Swedish Covenant Hospital. His paternal grandparents emigrated from Sweden. His father was born in Chicago, and became a traveling shoe salesman for a St. Louis company. Holmgren’s mother was born in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Her parents immigrated to the United States from Norway and tried to run a farm in Wisconsin. Holmgren’s mother left the farm immediately after high school and settled in Chicago.

The family lived first in the Edgewater neighborhood, later moving west to Albany Park. Holmgren graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1940, and then attended University of Illinois for one year. He transferred to the University of Chicago, studying sociology and psychology, but his college career was interrupted by World War II. He entered the Army Air Corps in 1943, becoming a pilot and airplane commander in the Eighth Air Force, European Theater of Operations.

In 1946 he was hired as a Tenant Selection Aide for the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). Two days after he began work, white tenants at the CHA’s new Airport Homes erupted in rioting over news that African Americans might be allowed to move in. By 1948 he responded to another episode of race violence at the CHA’s Fernwood Homes, supporting the CHA’s Elizabeth Wood in opposition to Mayor Kennelly’s order that the black families be removed immediately. Less than a year later came the eruption of new race violence at Trumbull Park in the South Deering neighborhood, which turned into the longest-lasting and most publicized CHA race confrontation yet.

After a series of disagreements with CHA policies, Holmgren left CHA at the end of 1954, eventually becoming director of the Housing Opportunities Program of the American Friends Service Committee. Four years later, he moved to the Chicago Urban League, concentrating on programming to promote integration in housing and health services. In this work he was closely associated with Edwin (“Bill”) Berry, then director of the Chicago Urban League.

In the new climate of the 1960s Ed Holmgren’s housing integration knowledge was sought by activist groups in other cities. He accepted an offer to become the Executive Director of Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc., in the summer of 1961. He remained in Baltimore throughout a series of challenges by the civil rights movement to segregated practices in housing, employment and education.

During 1966 the Chicago Freedom Movement, energized by the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., organized marches seeking to open up housing opportunities in segregated neighborhoods. Several of the marches, notably one in Gage Park and Marquette Park, experienced violent attacks. After an agreement was concluded between Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley and the Chicago Freedom Movement in the fall of 1966, a new organization entered the field. Called the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, it aimed to use a wide range of methods to open up housing for minorities in both Chicago and its surrounding suburbs. In December 1966, the council decided to hire Edward Holmgren as its first Executive Director.

Holmgren’s career in fair housing culminated with his 1974 appointment as Executive Director of the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing (NCDH) in Washington, D.C., where he worked with communities nationwide to combat discriminatory real estate and banking practices such as red-lining and steering clients to race-appropriate neighborhoods. He stepped down as NCDH director in 1981. In his latter years, he became active in programs for “Lifelong Learning” at Northwestern University and at National-Louis University.

Edward L. Holmgren died 2008 August 31 in Glenview, Illinois.

Scope and Content Note

The Edward Holmgren Papers were donated by his daughter, Beth Holmgren, who collected them from Edward Holmgren’s home after his death. Ed Holmgren had telephoned the Harsh Research Collection, inquiring about possible interest in his papers, several months before he died. His papers are focused on Holmgren’s more than 50 years of participation in the struggle to break down segregated housing barriers, both in Chicago and nationally.

This small collection has been arranged into eight series: Biography and Family, Correspondence, Organization Files, Conferences, Publications and Clippings, Reports on Housing and Civil Rights, Serials, and Photographs and Memorabilia.

Series 1: Biography and Family

This series documents the life of Edward Holmgren, and two published writings by his brothers, John and Rod. Of particular importance is a 178 page transcript of a 1968 oral history audiotape by Edward Holmgren. The original audiotape has not been found; the transcript has “a few pages missing toward the end,” according to Beth Holmgren. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series 2: Correspondence

Correspondence to, from, and about Edward Holmgren is included in this series. Topics of the correspondence include Trumbull Park race violence in the 1950s, employment recommendations written on behalf of Ed Holmgren, and Holmgren’s participation in early planning of the Chicago Video Project’s documentation of Chicago Housing Authority relocations. This series is arranged chronologically.

Series 3: Organization Files

Many of the organizations for which Holmgren worked are represented in this series, which covers his work from 1949 to 2001. These include the Chicago Housing Authority, the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities,the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, and Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. This series is arranged alphabetically by name of the organization.

Series 4: Conferences

Full reports from three landmark conferences, on civil rights and on desegregation in housing and schools, are included in this series. The conferences span the years from 1966 through 1975.

Series 5: Publications and Clippings

Surviving subject files, compiled from clippings and publications, are housed in this series. Of special interest are South African author Alan Paton’s essay on “The Negro in America Today,” with his comments on Trumbull Park race violence, and Arnold Hirsch’s Journal of American History article on “Trumbull Park, Chicago, 1953- 1966.” This series is arranged in the order Holmgren created.

Series 6: Reports on Housing and Civil Rights

Edward Holmgren kept extensive files on housing and civil rights issues, both in Chicago and nationally. These files included many reports, often commissioned by government and non-profit organizations. Many of the reports in this series were not widely circulated; some were compiled for internal use, and are difficult to find. The reports span the years from 1953 through 1993, and are arranged alphabetically by the title of the report.

Series 7: Serials

Serial publications retained by Ed Holmgren are included in this series. Most issues include discussion of the civil rights movement and analyses of U.S. race relations. Of special interest are rare 1955 issues of the South Deering Bulletin, a community newsletter in the Trumbull Park neighborhood. The motto of that newsletter reads: “White people must control their own communities.” The series is arranged alphabetically by the title of the serial.

Series 8: Photographs and Memorabilia

Few photographs were included in the donation of the Edward Holmgren Papers. Most of the photos are portraits of Ed Holmgren from the 1940s through the 1970s. One small poster is also included in this series.

Related Materials

Related materials at the Chicago Public Library include:

Related materials at other institutions include:

Container List

Series 1: Biography and Family

Box 1 Folder 1 Edward Holmgren Curriculum vitae, circa1965- 1988
Box 1 Folder 2 Oral History transcript dictated by Edward Holmgren, 1968 March. 178 pages, transcribed in 1968 May. Note from Beth Holmgren states that “a few pages are missing toward the end.”
Box 1 Folder 3 John H. Holmgren (brother of Edward Holmgren), inscribed copy of Pages, Publication Fellowship, Mennonite Press, North Newton, Kansas, with poem by John Holmgren, 1981 July
Box 1 Folder 4 Rod Holmgren (brother of Edward Holmgren), review of Walking Tours of England, by Adam Nicolson, published in Sierra, 1983 January/February

Series 2: Correspondence

Box 1 Folder 5 Correspondence file on Trumbull Park race violence, 1953-1958. Authors include Catholic Interracial Council, A. Dudley Ward of the Board of Economic and Social Relations of the Methodist Church, Father George Clements of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, and Judy Miller
Box 1 Folder 6 Edward J. Fruchtman to John Willard, American Friends Service Committee, recommending Ed Holmgren, 1955 June 7
Box 1 Folder 7 Sanford Horwitt to Ed Holmgren, 1983 May 5
Box 1 Folder 8 Zirl S. Smith, Executive Director, Chicago Housing Authority, to John A. McDermott, Illinois Bell, re: Ed Holmgren, 1985 March 18
Box 1 Folder 9 Tamara Danish Tabb to Ed Holmgren, 1991 April 24-25
Box 1 Folder 10 Bruce Orenstein, Chicago Video Project, to Ed Holmgren, circa 2000. Includes appended letter from Ed Holmgren to Rob Fruchtman on Orenstein’s work, undated

Series 3: Organization Files

Box 1 Folder 11 Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. File includes 1961 correspondence hiring Ed Holmgren as Executive Director and “But Not Next Door,” pamphlet on history of BNI.
Box 1 Folder 12 Chicago Housing Authority, includes address by Elizabeth Wood, memos and correspondence, 1949-1956
Box 1 Folder 13 Chicago Housing Authority “Alumni” file, 1988
Box 1 Folder 14 Chicago Urban League, 1958-1966. Correspondents include Bill Berry
Box 1 Folder 15 Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, 1966-1972
Box 1 Folder 16 Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, 1986-2001
Box 1 Folder 17 National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing, 1974- 1983

Series 4: Conferences

 Box 1 Folder 1 Conference, White House Conference “To Fulfill These Rights,” 1966 June 1-2
 Box 1 Folder 2 Conference, Symposium on School Desegregation and White Flight, University of Notre Dame, 1975 August
 Box 1 Folder 3 Conference, “Expanding Equal Housing Opportunities,” Urban Coalition, 1968 January 18

Series 5: Publications and Clippings

Box 2 Folder 4 News clippings, On housing integration struggles, 1950s– 1960s
Box 2 Folder 5 C. Vann Woodward, “What Happened to the Civil Rights Movement?”, Harper’s, 1967
Box 2 Folder 6 News clippings, On housing and civil rights, 1970s and 1980s
Box 2 Folder 7 News clippings, On housing and civil rights, 1990s
Box 2 Folder 8 News clippings, On housing and civil rights, 2000s
Box 2 Folder 9 News clippings, Book reviews and booklists, 1980s- 2000s
Box 2 Folder 10 Paton, Alan, “The Negro in America Today,” reprinted from Collier’s Magazine, 1954 October, by the NAACP. Includes comments on Trumbull Park race violence
Box 2 Folder 11 Hirsch, Arnold, “Massive Resistance in the Urban North: Trumbull Park, Chicago, 1953-1966, Journal of American History, 1995
Box 2 Folder 12 Pamphlets, articles, play script, 1965-2003

Series 6: Reports on Housing and Civil Rights

Box 3 Folder 1 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, “Affirmative Action in the 1980s: Dismantling the Process of Discrimination,” 1981
Box 3 Folder 2 Chicago Plan Commission, “The Calumet Area of Metropolitan Chicago,” 1956
Box 3 Folder 3 Herbert Hammerman (Potomac Institute), “A Decade of New Opportunity: Affirmative Action in the 1970s,” 1985
Box 3 Folder 4 Citizen’s Commission on Civil Rights, “A Decent Home: A report on the continual failure of the Federal Government to Provide Equal Housing Opportunity,” 1983
Box 3 Folder 5 A.L. Nellum and Associates, “Evaluation of the Fair Housing Assistance Program, Technical Proposal,” 1982
Box 3 Folder 6 Department of Housing and Urban Development, “The Fair Housing Enforcement Demonstration,” 1983
Box 3 Folder 7 Edward Holmgren (Potomac Institute), “Fair Housing in a Post-Civil Rights Era: Does Anyone Care?”, circa 1981
Box 3 Folder 8 Gary Orfield, Federal Agencies and Urban Segregation: Steps Toward Coordinated Action,” circa 1976
Box 3 Folder 9 Fred Halstead, John O. Killens, Anthony Aviles, Don Charles, “Harlem Stirs,” Marzani & Munzell, New York, 1966
Box 3 Folder 10 Citizens Committee to Fight Slums, “Housing Action Report of 1954 to Mayor Martin H. Kennelly,” Chicago, 1954
Box 3 Folder 11 Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council, “Housing Action Report to Mayor Richard J. Daley,” Chicago,1955
Box 3 Folder 12 Potomac Institute, “The Housing Assistance Plan: A Non-Working Program for Community Improvement,” 1975
Box 4 Folder 1 President’s Commission on Housing, “Interim Report,” 1981
Box 4 Folder 2 Dudley Onderdonk III, “Interracial Housing Since 1970: From Activism to Affirmative Marketing,” Council of Planning Librarians, 1979
Box 4 Folder 3 University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, “The Kerner Report Revisited, Background Papers,” 1970 January 11-13
Box 4 Folder 4 William L. Taylor, for the Ford Foundation, “Mounting a Concerted Federal Attack on Urban Segregation: A Preliminary Exploration,” 1978 May 31
Box 4 Folder 5 File of Reports on Housing in New York City, 1956-1966. Includes Women’s City Club of New York, “Manhattantown Two Years Later,” 1956; and J. Anthony Panuch, “Relocation in New York City: A Special Report to Mayor Wagner,” 1959
Box 4 Folder 6 Chicago Plan Commission, Department of City Planning, “Annual Report: 1960,” 1960
Box 4 Folder 7 Verne Fletcher, Church Federation of Greater Chicago, “Patterns of Residence: Some Problems and Prospects of Urban Housing,” 1959 October
Box 4 Folder 8 Chicago Plan Commission, “Population and Housing: Report Number 2,” 1956 December
Box 4 Folder 9 American Friends Service Committee, Chicago Regional Office, “Quakers Look at Trumbull Park: A Report by the Delegation,” 1956 October. Letter from Jack Sutters, AFSC Philadelphia office, to Ed Holmgren, 1993 January 14, appended
Box 4 Folder 10 David H. McKay, University of Essex, United Kingdom, “Race and Housing in the United States: A Study of Federal Power and the 1968 Civil Rights Act, 1974 August
Box 5 Folder 1 Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council, “Rehabilitation and Reinvestment Strategies for the Chicago Housing Authority: Project Description,” 1985 February 26
Box 5 Folder 2 Chicago Department of City Planning, “Rehousing Residents displaced from Public Housing Clearance Sites in Chicago, 1957-1958,” 1960 October
Box 5 Folder 3 Office of Housing and Redevelopment Coordinator, “Relocation in Chicago 1953,” 1954 March
Box 5 Folder 4 Office of Housing and Redevelopment Coordinator, “Relocation in Chicago 1955,” 1956 April
Box 5 Folder 5 Housing and Redevelopment Coordinator, “Residential Construction and Related Data, 1955,” Chicago, 1955
Box 5 Folder 6 Department of City Planning, , “Residential Construction and Related Data, 1957,” Chicago, 1957
Box 5 Folder 7 Ford Foundation, Two reports by Herbert M. Franklin and Dick Sharpe, from meeting on Housing and Education Desegregation, New York, 1979 June
Box 5 Folder 8 Chicago Commission on Human Relations, “The Trumbull Park Homes Disturbances: A Chronological Report, 1953 August 4 to 1955 June 30,”
Box 5 Folder 9 Chicago Urban League Community Services Department, “Urban Renewal and the Negro in Chicago,” 1958 June 18
Box 5 Folder 10 National Urban League, “When the Marching Stopped: An Analysis of Black Issues in the ‘70s,” New York, 1974
Box 5 Folder 11 Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Inc. [HARYOU], “Youth in the Ghetto: A Study of the Consequences of Powerlessness and a Blueprint for Change,” New York, 1964
Box 5 Folder 12 Department of Housing and Urban Development, Marilyn T. Sobol and Edward G. Kramer, Title unknown [Guidebook on “expanding housing opportunities and choices for low-income and minority persons”], circa 1980

Series 7: Serials

Box 6 Folder 1 Serials, Chicago Journalism Review, Chicago, Illinois, 1971 January-October
Box 6 Folder 2 Serials, City: Bi-monthly Review of Urban America, Washington, D.C., 1968
Box 6 Folder 3 Serials, City: Bi-monthly Review of Urban America, Washington, D.C., 1969. Also includes Chronicle, a supplement to City
Box 6 Folder 4 Serials, City: Bi-monthly Review of Urban America, Washington, D.C., 1970
Box 6 Folder 5 Serials, Civil Rights Digest, Washington, D.C., Winter 1969
Box 6 Folder 6 Serials, CLSA (Commission on Law and Social Action of the American Jewish Congress), New York, NY, 1966
Box 7 Folder 1 Serials, Daedalus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fall 1965
Box 7 Folder 2 Serials, Daedalus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Winter, 1966
Box 7 Folder 3 Serials, Daedalus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fall 1968
Box 7 Folder 4 Serials, Daedalus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Fall 1972
Box 7 Folder 5 Serials, Harper’s, New York, NY, 1969 March. Includes note from Jean Halloran to Edward Holmgren
Box 8 Folder 1 Serials, Journal of Intergroup Relations, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1972,1973
Box 8 Folder 2 Serials, Journal of Intergroup Relations, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1974,1975
Box 8 Folder 3 Serials, Journal of Intergroup Relations, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1976
Box 8 Folder 4 Serials, Land Use Law & Zoning Digest, Chicago, Illinois, 1977
Box 8 Folder 5 Serials, Liberation, New York, NY, 1965 February
Box 8 Folder 6 Serials, News Letter (Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago), 1955 April
Box 8 Folder 7 Serials, Social Thought, Washington, D.C., Spring 1975
Box 8 Folder 8 Serials, South Deering Bulletin, Chicago, Illinois, 1955 September 17- 1955 November 5

Series 8: Photographs and Memorabilia

Box 9 Photo 001 Management Office, North Side Veterans Temporary Housing Program, circa1946-1950
Box 9 Photo 002 Edward Holmgren portrait, undated
Box 9 Photo 003 Edward Holmgren (color) with beard, undated
Box 9 Photo 004 Edward Holmgren portrait, undated
Box 9 Photo 005 Playground scene with children of several ethnicities, circa 1950
Box 9 Photo 006 Edward Holmgren with two white men in suits and one priest, possibly during Trumbull Park race violence, circa 1955
Box 9 Photo 007 Edwin “Bill” Berry, Chicago Urban League, with Edward Holmgren and unidentified man, circa 1970
Box 9 Photo 008 Edward Holmgren portrait in U.S. Army Air Corps uniform, circa 1944
Box 9 Memorabilia Small poster with message that Open Housing can help stop ethnic slurs and treat all ethnicities as Americans.
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