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How Austin Became Segregated: The City Plan of 1928
The Great Depression accelerated the process, and by the mid-1930s nearly every black family lived in East Austin which the city unapologetically labeled "The Negro District." This allowed the city to close black schools in other parts of the city. For example, in 1931 the city closed the all-black Wheatsville School after 60 years because so few black families lived downtown. After Wheatsville was closed, black children who still lived downtown were transferred to the E. H. Anderson School in East Austin. This measure placed added pressure on black families to move to East Austin so that their children could attend a neighborhood school. Black institutions beyond East Austin also faced extreme prejudice from city officials that threatened their continued existence if they did not "voluntarily" relocate. For example, a black business or church might be denied permits or service from public utilities.
Ten years later, the city created Santa Rita Courts, the nation’s first federally funded housing project. The city claimed that their intention was to provide a low-cost housing option for Latinos. At the same time, documents reveal that the city hoped that their twin practice of eviction and construction of housing projects would compel non-white families living downtown to move to East Austin. Between racially restrictive covenants prevented non-whites from occupying certain neighborhoods, and because of the general lack of affordable housing in the city, East Austin became home to the majority of the city's African American and Mexican American residents.
This pattern of residential segregation persisted with little change until the late 1990s. Urban growth and gentrification, along with urban development planning, have led parts of East Austin to become a desirable location among affluent young whites and students at the University of Texas at Austin. In fact, a section of East Austin is today known as "The Hippest Hipster Neighborhood" in America.
"There has been considerable talk in Austin, as well as other cities, in regard to the race segregation problem. This problem cannot be solved legally under any zoning law known to us at present. Practically all attempts of such have been proven unconstitutional.
SourcesJeremiah Spence, Joseph Straubhaar, Alexander Cho, and Dean Graber, Inequity in the Technopolis: Race, Class, Gender, and the Digital Divide in Austin. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. Click the link below for more information or to purchase this book.
Austin, Texas 78701
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