Originally just called Lawndale, the North Lawndale community area was named by a real estate developer in the late 1800s. Its name was meant to evoke a suburban feel, distant from the noisy city. However, North Lawndale became a neighborhood busy with the flurry of nearby industry.
By the 1960s, African Americans began moving into North Lawndale. White residents left for other neighborhoods and suburbs, and the community began to feel the effects of disinvestment. Racial tensions, poverty, and rising African American unemployment eventually led Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to choose North Lawndale as the base for the civil rights movement in the North. He moved into an apartment in the community in 1966 to bring attention to racist housing policies. The riots that followed his assassination left scars that can still be seen in the neighborhood today.