Panthers and Palm Trees

Air date: 
Wednesday, April 17, 2002
Panthers and Palm Trees was part of a series, Stories of Home, produced by Alex along with Amy Drozdowska. The series won a George Foster Peabody Award. It aired on WBEZ and on Weekend All Things Considered.

Milton Reed was a home decorator, of sorts. He painted murals in people’s apartments in the Robert Taylor homes. Around the neighborhood Reed was known simply as “the artist”. As in “Hey artist, how much you charge for a mural?” Reed charged between 50 and 200 dollars. Reed was a kind of a Diego Rivera of the projects, painting the imaginings and realities of the dispossessed, of the men and women who lived in what was America’s poorest neighborhood.


Chicago is one of America’s most iconic, historic, and fascinating cities. For Alex Kotlowitz, an accidental Chicagoan, it is the perfect perch from which to peer into America’s heart.

Separated by a river, St. Joseph and Benton Harbor are two Michigan towns that are geographically close, yet worlds apart. St. Joseph is a prosperous, predominately white lakeshore community while Benton Harbor is impoverished and predominately black. When the body of Eric McGinnis, a black teenage boy from Benton Harbor, is found in the river that separates the towns, relations between the two communities grow increasingly strained as longheld misperceptions and attitudes surface. 

There Are No Children Here chronicles two years in the lives of two boys, Lafeyette and Pharoah, struggling to survive in Chicago’s Henry Horner Homes, a public housing complex disfigured by crime and neglect. 

© 2018, Alex Kotlowitz. All rights reserved