This is Part I of a two-part study of the Ranger Nation, the result of six months of research and interviewing. Click here to go to part two of this series.
Sometime between 1961 and 1963, according to evidence presented to a Senate subcommittee chaired by John McClellan of Arkansas last July, an unknown number of black young men, who lived in the general area of Sixty-sixth Place and Blackstone Avenue in the Woodlawn area of Chicago's South Side ghetto, organized a street gang. Like most street gangs, it was formed to protect its members from intimidation by other gangs in the South Side area. The most formidable enemy of this new group was a gang called the Devil's Disciples, which claimed part of the neighboring Kenwood area. In the years which followed, the Disciples became the traditional enemies of the Woodlawn youths, who called themselves Blackstone Rangers.
At first the Rangers were interested only in protecting their territory and their membership from attacks and retaliations by the Disciples, but by 1965 there were an estimated 200 of them in the group, and they were breaking with traditional gang patterns. They were organizing in Woodlawn. And this organization caused some public concern, and even fear, because it began during a period of violent rivalry between the Rangers and the Disciples. During these formative stages the Blackstone Rangers seemed to have placed the running feud between the Disciples and themselves secondary to their primary goal: organization. Soon their influence in Woodlawn caused minor, less influential, less powerful gangs to join them. And they came from all over the South Side: the Maniacs, the Four Corners, the Lovers, the V.I.P.'s, the Pythons, the Warlocks, the F.B.I., the Conservatives, the Pharaohs. At present there are anywhere from 3500 to 8000 boys and men who identify with the Blackstone Rangers and who have affixed the Ranger name to the names of their own gangs. Such is the organizational structure and size of the Blackstone Rangers today that they call themselves a Nation. The Ranger Nation is headed by a group of young men called the Main 21. Until 1968 the president of the organization was Eugene "Bull" Hairston, the vice president was Jeff Fort (also called "Angel" and "Black Prince"), and the warlord was George Rose (also called "Watusi" and "Mad Dog"). The Rangers' spiritual leader was Paul "The Preacher" Martin, and the rest of the Main 21 was made up of leaders of the minor gangs who had joined with the Rangers. Each individual gang, it seems, maintained its own organizational structure with its own officers; but collectively all of the gangs made up the Blackstone Nation, which is presently incorporated to do business under the laws of Illinois.