"Reckon I been in mill 2 years. Don’t remember."
Springstein Mill. John Lewis (boy with hat), 12 years old, 1 year in mill. Weaver — 4 looms. 40 [cents] a day to start, 60 [cents] a day now. Brother and mother in mill. Morris Small (boy with cap), “Reckon I been in mill 2 years. Don’t remember.” Chester, S.C., 11/28/1908
Russian Propaganda from WWII
Disneyland, Tomorrowland, 1965
A great example of continuing inequality in public spaces
Black children standing in front of half mile concrete wall, Detroit, Michigan. This wall was built in August 1941, to separate the Black section from a white housing development going up on the other side.
Photo by John Vachon
Brief Detroit history to go with this photograph:In the early 20th century… the city’s real estate was valuable, and jealously guarded by whites. The hundreds of thousands of blacks who migrated to work in the city’s booming auto and defense industries found that most jobs and neighborhoods were closed to them.
In the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s, working-class white ethnics bought homes and began to identify as just “white.” And being white meant keeping blacks, suffering from an extreme housing shortage, away from white neighborhoods and jobs. Along with the restrictive covenants that barred the sale of homes to non-whites and discriminatory public and private lending practice, white Detroiters perpetuated widespread harassment, violence and property destruction against blacks who dared move out of the crowded ghetto in the city’s Lower East Side. “For most of the 20th century, Detroit was one of the most segregated cities in the United States,” says Tom Sugrue, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit.” “The city became a magnet for black migrants — and whites fiercely defended their turf against black newcomers.”
One developer even erected a 6-foot-high cement wall between white and black neighborhoods to make the former actuarially sound.
“In many neighborhoods, whites used violence and intimidation to deter black newcomers. In my book, I document nearly 250 incidents involving mobs, vandalism and violence directed toward the first black families to move into formerly white neighborhoods. Whites also formed hundreds of ‘neighborhood improvement associations’ that pledged to keep ‘undesirables’ — namely blacks — out. Real estate brokers and mortgage lenders — backed by federal housing policy — also played a critical role in creating an unfree housing market for African-Americans.”
With the relocation and decline of industry, blacks were stuck in an increasingly jobless and expanding ghetto. Black unemployment rose to 22.5 percent in 1980, doubling in just 20 years. White workers, writes Sugrue, followed industry to the suburbs. Those too poor to stay behind became “angrier and more defensive.” In 1972, every majority white ward in the city supported George Wallace in the Democratic presidential primary. The Alabama governor — who once declared “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” — had a message that resonated.
The new census numbers show large numbers of blacks moving to the suburbs, and increasing integration as a result: Detroit’s dissimilarity index fell a dramatic 10 points since 2000, one of the largest decreases nationwide. This good news, however, is only made possible by the broader economic disaster.
“Blacks are fleeing the city and are following the path of least resistance into formerly all-white bastions like Warren and Harper Woods, where houses are often on the market for months or years,” says Sugrue. “But many whites, trapped by the collapsing housing market, are unable to move. Hence a decline in segregation rates.” (via Salon)
Today, Detroit is the 4th most segregated city in America.Jim Crow is still with us and it’s not confined to the South.
On top of this, GM bought up and tore out most of the city’s light-rail public transit lines in the teens and 20s. So there were (are) millions of black workers being barred from living a walkable distance to work and unable to access mass transit, adding the expenses of car ownership (which today are quite high in Michigan thanks to the state’s comprehensive no-fault laws) to other financial burdens. It’s a system designed to keep black families poor as well as segregated.
The Outbreak of the First World War, 1914
Crowds outside Buckingham Palace cheer King George, Queen Mary and the Prince of Wales (who can just be seen on the balcony) following the Declaration of War in August 1914.