Chatham has the distinction of being perhaps the only neighborhood in Chicago that developed from a European American middle-class community into one composed of middle-class African Americans. Middle-class African Americans were, in fact, drawn to the area precisely because of its strict property standards, high levels of community organization, and good schools. When the racial changeover was completed, African American Chathamites worked diligently to maintain the middle-class character of their community.

Some of the most successful black businesses have been located in Chatham, including the Johnson Products Company (Ultra Sheen Hair Products), the Independence Bank of Chicago, Seaway National Bank of Chicago, and a branch of the Illinois Service Federal Savings and Loan Association. Independence Bank of Chicago was one of the nation's largest black-owned banks until 1995, when it was acquired by another corporation.

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