African-American neighborhood

The Fifth Ward, a predominantly African American neighborhood in Houston, Texas
Shopping on 125th Street, Harlem, New York City.

African-American neighborhoods or black neighborhoods are types of ethnic enclaves found in many cities in the United States. Generally, an African American neighborhood is one where the majority of the people who live there are African American. Some of the earliest African-American neighborhoods were in New York City[1] along with early communities located in Virginia. In 1830, there were 14,000 "free Negroes" living in New York City.[2]

The formation of black neighborhoods are closely linked to the history of segregation in the United States, either through formal laws or as a product of social norms. Despite the formal laws and segregation, black neighborhoods have played an important role in the development of African-American culture.[3]


The Great Migration

The Hub is the retail heart of the South Bronx, New York City. Between 1900 and 1930, the number of Bronx residents increased from 201,000 to 1,265,000.[4]

The Great Migration was the movement of more than one million African Americans out of rural Southern United States from 1914 to 1940. Most African Americans who participated in the migration moved to large industrial cities such as Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Detroit, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Boston, New Orleans, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach as well as many smaller industrial cities. Hence, the Migration played an important role in the formation and expansion of African-American neighborhoods in these cities. Chicago's South Side and adjoining South Suburbs together constitute the largest geographical predominantly Black region in America, stretching from roughly Cermak Road (22nd St) on the north in the Near South Side to the far south suburb of University Park - a distance of approximately 40 miles. There are various races and ethnic groups in this huge expanse such as Whites, Latinos, Asians, and Arabs, but it is predominantly Black.

While the Great Migration helped educated African Americans obtain jobs, while enabling a measure of class mobility, the migrants encountered significant forms of discrimination in the North through a large migration during such a short of period of time. The African-American migrants were often resented by working classes in the North, who feared that their ability to negotiate rates of pay, or even to secure employment at all, was threatened by the influx of new labor competition.

Populations increased very rapidly with the addition of African-American migrants and new European immigrants, which caused widespread housing shortages in many cities.[5] Newer groups competed even for the oldest and most rundown houses because the poorly constructed houses were what they could afford. African Americans competed for work and housing with first or second generation immigrants in many major cities. Ethnic groups created territories which they defended against change. More established populations with more capital moved away to newer housing that was being developed on the outskirts of the cities, to get away from the pressure of new groups of residents.

The migrants also discovered that the open discrimination of the South was only more subtly manifested in the North. In 1917, the Supreme Court declared municipal resident segregation ordinances unconstitutional. In response, some white groups resorted to the restrictive covenant, a formal deed restriction binding property owners in a given neighborhood not to sell to blacks. Whites who broke these agreements could be sued by "damaged" neighbors. Not until 1948 did the Supreme Court strike down restrictive covenants.[6] The National Housing Act of 1934 contributed to limiting the availability of loans to urban areas, particularly those areas inhabited by African Americans.[7]

In some cities, the influx of African-American migrants as well as other immigrants resulted in racial violence, which flared in several cities during 1919.

This significant event and the subsequent struggle of African-American migrants to adapt to Northern cities was the subject of Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series.[8] This series, exhibited in 1941, was responsible for bringing Lawrence to the public eye as one of the most important African-American artists of the time.[9]

The Second Great Migration

From 1940-1970, another five million people left the South for industrial jobs in cities in the North and West. Sometimes violence was the outcome of some of the pressure of this migration.

In response to the influx of Blacks from the South, banks, insurance companies, and businesses began redlining—denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking, insurance, access to jobs,[10] access to health care,[11] or even supermarkets[12] to residents in certain, often racially determined,[13] areas. The most common use of the term refers to mortgage discrimination. Data on house prices and attitudes toward integration suggest that in the mid-20th century, segregation was a product of collective actions taken by whites to exclude blacks from their neighborhoods.[14] This meant that ethnic minorities could secure mortgage loans only in certain areas, and it resulted in a large increase in the residential racial segregation and urban decay in the United States.[15]

Urban renewal, the redevelopment of areas within large cities, including white flight, has also been a factor in the growth patterns of African-American neighborhoods. The process began an intense phase in the late 1940s and continues in some places to the present day. It has had a major impact on the urban landscape. Urban renewal was extremely controversial because it involved the destruction of businesses, the relocation of people, and the use of eminent domain to reclaim private property for city-initiated development projects. The justifications often used for urban renewal include the "renewal" of residential slums and blighted commercial and industrial areas. In the second half of the 20th century, renewal often resulted in the creation of urban sprawl and vast areas of cities being demolished and replaced by freeways and expressways, housing projects, and vacant lots, some of which still remain vacant at the beginning of the 21st century.[16] Urban renewal had a disproportionate and largely negative impact on African-American neighborhoods. In the 1960s James Baldwin famously dubbed urban renewal "Negro Removal".[17][18][19]

The creation of highways in some cases divided and isolated black neighborhoods from goods and services, many times within industrial corridors. For example, Birmingham's interstate highway system attempted to maintain racial boundaries established by the city’s 1926 racially based zoning law. The construction of interstate highways through black neighborhoods in the city led to significant population loss in those neighborhoods. It was also associated with an increase in neighborhood racial segregation.[20]

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act removed racial deed restrictions on housing. This enabled middle-class African Americans to move to better housing, in some cases in the suburbs, and to desegregated residential neighborhoods. In some areas, however, real estate agents continued to steer African Americans to particular areas although that was now illegal.

The riots that swept cities across the country from 1964 to 1968 damaged or destroyed additional areas of major cities, for instance Detroit's 12th Street, the U and H street corridors in Washington, DC, and Harlem in New York City during the Harlem Riots.

Late 20th century

By 1990, the legal barriers enforcing segregation had been replaced by decentralized racism, where whites pay more to live in predominantly white areas.[14] Some social scientists suggest that the historical processes of suburbanization and decentralization are instances of white privilege that have contributed to contemporary patterns of environmental racism.[21]

At the same time, however, middle-class and upper-class blacks have also paid more to live in the suburbs and have left the inner cities of former industrial powerhouses behind. In the New Great Migration, black college graduates are returning to the South for jobs, where they generally settle in middle-class, suburban areas. This includes states such as Texas, Georgia, and Maryland, three of the biggest gaining states of college graduates.[22]

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