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Racial Segregation in Urban America, post-WWII America


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History and implications of racial segregations in post-WWII American cities. Explains the dynamics that created overwhelmingly white suburban areas and restricted people of color to decaying urban cores. Our doughnut cities are no accident. Government aided the many at the expense of the few. Our public policies reinforced racist attitudes, reaffirming and reinventing American whiteness.

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Racial Segregation in Urban America, post-WWII America

  1. 1. Suburbs and Ghettoes: Eric Beckman Anoka, HS (MN) Racialized space, identity, and privilege in postwar America
  2. 2. Parallel Parades 1940-1970 ❖ Millions of Americans moved ❖ American cities became even more racially segregated ❖ White people received many benefits ❖ People of color were penalized financially.
  3. 3. Americans on the Move Segregation by Race Benefits for whites Disadvantages for people of color Segregated Neighborhoods
  4. 4. Migrations during WWII ❖ Millions moved
  5. 5. Racial Tensions during WWII ❖ Overcrowded cities were often racially tense ➢ Riots: Detroit, LA, and NYC White American Sailors during the Zoot Suit Riots in LA (1943)
  6. 6. Racial Violence in War-time Detroit “Early in June 1943, 25,000 Packard plant workers, who produced engines for bombers and PT boats, stopped work in protest of the promotion of three blacks… During the strike a voice outside the plant reportedly shouted, "I'd rather see Hitler and Hirohito win than work beside a n***** on the assembly line.” –Detroit News
  7. 7. Post-war Housing Crisis ❖ Housing shortage ➢ Millions of vets ■ 100,000 homeless ➢ 17.5 million needed ❖ “ threat or an opportunity.” ❖ Government assistance, for white folks ➢ GI Bill ➢ Housing Act of 1949 ■ Mortgage insurance, almost all for all-white suburbs ■ Public housing, racially segregated ■ Urban renewal, destroyed housing in city neighborhoods
  8. 8. The Second Great Migration ❖ 5 million African Americans left the South,1940-1970 ➢ Largest ethnic relocation in US ➢ North, West cities ■ 1940s: 85% ↑ in black pop ➢ Southern cities, too ❖ Lack of quality housing Chicago’s “Black Belt,” 1941
  9. 9. Making the Second Ghettoes ❖ Crowded, high rents ❖ Houses subdivided ➢ Apartments → “kitchenettes” ❖ Run down ❖ Difficulty finding good jobs ➢ Business to suburbs ➢ Education ➢ Discrimination
  10. 10. Resistance to Integration Counterdemonstrators in Milwaukee opposed Father James Groppi and the NAACP Youth Council’s marches for open housing in very clear terms in 1967. ❖ Nonviolent, but mean-spirited demonstrations ❖ Underreported, but real, violence directed at Black pioneers
  11. 11. Suburbanization ❖ Suburban population 2x, 37 million-74 million, 1950-1970 ❖ Massive government assistance ➢ Half of homes had federally guaranteed mortgages ➢ Highways ➢ Water and sewer ❖ Almost no federally guaranteed mortgages in cites ❖ FHA guaranteed 60x to suburbs, 1934--1960 Levittown, Pennsylvania
  12. 12. Whites-Only Suburbs ❖ Federal government underwrote $120 Billion in new housing, 1934-1962 ➢ 98% for white people. ❖ Levittown, NY: ➢ largest city (70,000) without a single black resident in 1953 ❖ Many developers only sold or rented to white people Bloomington, MN 1956.
  13. 13. Redlining: Denying loans to buy houses in certain neighborhoods Federal Government Map of Philadelphia, 1936 ❖ Government maps showed neighborhood ratings ➢ In1930s red =lowest rating (nonwhite, low income) ❖ 1930s and 40s: Federal Housing Administration officially recommended only loaning money to buy houses in all-white areas ❖ Result: Very few loans in “redlined” areas ➢ People of color with loans usually paid more interest
  14. 14. Federal Government Map of St. Louis, 1937
  15. 15. Impact of Redlining In the 1940s developers built this wall near 8 Mile Road in Detroit to divide a new white neighborhood from an older black neighborhood. Otherwise, the area would have been redlined and white people would not have been able to get mortgages. (Photos taken August 2009)
  16. 16. Impact of Redlining ❖ No loans for most city neighborhoods ➢ Property values and conditions declined ❖ Wages of whiteness: more valuable house ❖ White homeowners, even if not prejudiced, had reason to fear black neighbors
  17. 17. Destruction of Urban Housing ❖ Urban renewal ❖ Highway construction ❖ Racism limited relocation possibilities Urban renewal, Chicago, mid 50s
  18. 18. Public Housing ❖ Built, in part, to control where people of color lived ➢ People leaving destroyed housing “Public housing was now meant to collect the ghetto residents left homeless by the urban renewal bulldozers” ~ Mark Condon of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government
  19. 19. Poverty, Isolation, Segregation ❖ Public Housing increased segregation ➢ Chicago riots ➢ Federal rule ❖ The projects concentrated low- income people in areas with decreasing numbers of jobs and businesses ❖ > half poorest neighborhoods in US were CHA, in 1980 Robert Taylor Homes, Chicago
  20. 20. Housing as Wealth ❖ Housing costs per month in the late 40s: ➢ Rent in NYC: $100-150 ➢ Mortgage payments in Levittown: $65 ❖ Home ownership=wealth ❖ Housing wealth=possibility of more loans ❖ Housing wealth passed to children This 1990 photo shows a Cape Cod cottage in Levittown, New York remodeled into a larger, two-story Dutch colonial. This shows how residents of white spaces were able to add value to their homes.
  21. 21. Implications ❖ white people reaped advantages, communities of color suffered ❖ Identification of whiteness with nice neighborhoods and blackness with bad neighborhoods ❖ Concentrated poverty ❖ Racial divisions deepen ❖ Opportunity lost Our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white––separate and unequal... Discrimination and segregation have long permeated much of American life; they now threaten the future of every American. Kerner Commission, 1968 (at least 20 years late)
  22. 22. “geography does the work of Jim Crow laws”—john a. powell ❖ Racially segregated housing ➢ Segregation increased during Civil Rights Movement ❖ Average white-black advantage in 2000 ➢ Income 1.5 times ➢ Wealth: 8 times