Newsweek recently sounded the alarm in a long-form piece on what they view as a troubling new trend:
Sixty years after Brown vs. Board, forty years after the end of busing, it appears that all the social engineering in the world can’t make our multicultural dreams come true:
Economist Tyler Cowen, who is a conservative, calls white parents’ visceral fear of a mostly black school “discouraging.” … [Journalist] Hannah-Jones agrees. “You’re gonna have to force and cajole people” into integration, she says, which is why the court orders of the 1960s and ’70s proved effective. “We’re not going to do this voluntarily.”
By 1988, the high point of school integration in the U.S., nearly half of all black children attended a majority-white school. … Since then, however, the gains of Brown v. Board have been almost entirely reversed. Water will find its level. Yet the narrative remains that somehow, after enough ‘forcing and cajoling,’ a diverse and happy future awaits us all–even ethnic groups as radically different as Northwest Euros and Sub-Saharan Africans.
We at TWCS, on the contrary, posit that:
- Any time a large flux of Afros has arrived among ethnic NW Euros (up to and including the present), the latter have reacted sharply by separating themselves, and
- Their reasons have been not senseless but on the whole fairly defensible.
The two biggest laboratories for this social experiment, of course, have been South Africa and the United States. We have chosen to examine the latter.
Is Hannah-Jones right? Will enough ‘forcing and cajoling’ bring about the multicultural blessings we’ve long been waiting for? Or, on the contrary, have we believed so many myths about segregation that we’ve painted ourselves into a policy corner?
One common misconception is that Southerners started passing Jim Crow laws the moment the last Union troops left town. They did not. In fact the bulk of them came decades later, near the turn of the century. Why so late?
In 1955, historian C. Vann Woodward wrote:
The policies of proscription, segregation, and disfranchisement are often described as the immutable ‘folkways’ of the South … The effort to justify them as a consequence of Reconstruction and a necessity of the times is embarrassed by the fact that they did not originate in those times.
More than a decade was to pass after Redemption  before the first Jim Crow law was to appear upon the law books of a Southern state, and more than two decades before the older states of the seaboard were to adopt such laws. (1)
The pre-Jim Crow South was, in fact, much less rigid than we may imagine.
From Wilmoth Carter’s study on Raleigh, North Carolina:
Though circumscribed in movements and activities, in almost all cities of the Ante-bellum South free Negroes comprised the artisan class of workers. They, along with a few selected slaves on plantations, were the barbers, blacksmiths, butchers, carpenters, shoemakers, mechanics, tailors and textile workers, and keepers of restaurants, cafes and hotels.
In the 1875-76 period all “eating houses” and huckster [re-seller] stalls were operated by Negroes, while the number of Negro blacksmiths exceeded the number of white blacksmiths, with an equal number of Negroes and whites as harness makers and saddlers. (2)
b) Social space
From Charles E. Wynes’ work on Virginia:
‘The most distinguishing factor in the complexity of social relations between the races was that of inconsistency. From 1870 to 1900, there was no generally accepted code of racial mores.’ … Until 1900, when a law requiring the separation of the races on [Virginia] railroad cars was adopted by a majority of one vote, ‘the Negro sat where he pleased and among the white passengers on perhaps a majority of the state’s railroads.’ (1)
In 1879 British MP Sir George Campbell visited the U.S. South, amazed that
‘The humblest black rides with the proudest white on terms of perfect equality, and without the smallest symptom of malice or dislike on either side. I was, I confess, surprised to see how completely this is the case; even an English Radical is a little taken aback at first.’ (1)
Vernon Wharton in his study on Mississippi [1865-1890]:
For some years ‘most of the saloons served whites and Negroes at the same bar. Many of the restaurants, using separate tables, served both races in the same room. . . . Throughout the state common cemeteries, usually in separate portions, held the graves of both whites and Negroes.’
Wharton points out, however, that as early as 1890 segregation had closed in and the Negroes were by that date excluded from saloons, restaurants, parks, public halls, and white cemeteries. (1)
From a travelogue on Louisiana:
At the International Exposition in New Orleans in 1885 Charles Dudley Warner watched with some astonishment as ‘white and colored people mingled freely, talking and looking at what was of common interest . . . On “Louisiana Day” in the Exposition,’ he reported, ‘the colored citizens took their full share of the parade and the honors. Their societies marched with the others, and the races mingled in the grounds in unconscious equality of privileges.’ (1)
From an interview in the 1950s with an elderly black resident of Raleigh, N. Carolina:
Mandy Dunstan [black] used to have about the biggest restaurant. … Colored ate there too but her biggest trade was white. All ate together. I don’t remember any such thing as segregation in those places then and I’ve been here for 91 years, was born right on this same land January 10, 1867. (2)
A second interviewee:
I was born in 1870 right there at 711 East St. … I began traveling different places and working in 1893. There was no Jim Crow on the train then, you could sit anywhere, no special cars for colored . . . There wasn’t any such thing as a separate colored section in the market.
In the earlier days there were no signs anywhere saying ‘for colored.’ You could trade anywhere. … Whites and Negroes lived in the same neighborhoods and in the same blocks all mixed up together. If you saw a place you wanted you just went on and bought it. (2)
c) Hope for a new South
There was in fact such a relaxed attitude in many places in the post-Civil War years that some thought a new era of integration in the South was dawning.
T. McCants Stewart, a black NYC journalist, in 1885 took a train trip to his native South Carolina and then down to Florida. What he saw gives us an idea of how unlikely it could have seemed then that Jim Crow would soon descend like a hammer:
‘On leaving Washington, D.C.,’ he reported to his paper, ‘I put a chip on my shoulder, and inwardly dared any man to knock it off.’ He found a seat in a car which became so crowded that several white passengers had to sit on their baggage. ‘I fairly foamed at the mouth,’ he wrote, ‘imagining that the conductor would order me into a seat occupied by a colored lady so as to make room for a white passenger.’ Nothing of the sort happened, however.
At a stop twenty-one miles below Petersburg [VA] he entered a station dining room, ‘bold as a lion,’ he wrote, took a seat at a table with white people, and was courteously served. ‘The whites at the table appeared not to note my presence,’ he reported. ‘Thus far I had found travelling more pleasant . . . than in some parts of New England.’
… From Columbia, South Carolina, he wrote: ‘I feel about as safe here as in Providence, R.I. I can ride in first-class cars on the railroads and in the streets. I can go into saloons and get refreshments even as in New York. I can stop in and drink a glass of soda and be more politely waited upon than in some parts of New England.’ (1)
Stewart was bursting with optimism and pride at this progress on race relations:
‘Indeed,’ wrote Stewart, ‘the Palmetto State leads the South in some things. May she go on advancing in liberal practices and prospering throughout her borders, … leading our blessed section [region] on and on into the way of liberty, justice, equality, truth, and righteousness.’ (1)
Woodward, while admitting the South was hardly a racial utopia, asserts that:
The era of stiff conformity and fanatical rigidity that was to come had not yet closed in and shut off all contact between the races, … There were still real choices to be made, and alternatives [to Jim Crow] were still available. (1)
Thus we see that the freedoms of Blacks in the post-bellum South varied widely. So when and why did things began to tighten?
Some historians date the Great Migration from around WWI, but others, including James Gregory at the U. of North Carolina, claim it can really be dated back to the turn of the century. It involved southern rural Blacks moving not just north, but also into the cities of the South.
a) What might have been
To show just what a different path things might have taken, Woodward quotes the venerable Charleston News and Courier from 1898. A streetcar segregation law was being floated–and the editorialist found it laughable:
‘As we have got on fairly well for a third of a century, including a long period of reconstruction, without such a measure [streetcar segregation],’ wrote the editor, ‘we can probably get on as well hereafter without it, and certainly so extreme a measure should not be adopted and enforced without added and urgent cause.’
Finding the very idea mock-worthy, he launches into a reductio ad absurdum:
‘If there must be Jim Crow cars on the railroads, there should be Jim Crow cars on the street railways. Also on all passenger boats. . . . If there are to be Jim Crow cars, moreover, there should be Jim Crow waiting saloons at all stations, and Jim Crow eating houses. . . . There should be Jim Crow sections of the jury box, and a separate Jim Crow dock and witness stand in every court— and a Jim Crow Bible for colored witnesses to kiss. … ’
As late as 1898, then, a major southern paper finds such a scenario comically unthinkable–but it was in fact a prophecy. (Right down to the Jim Crow Bible).
The very same newspaper, in 1906:
‘The “problem” is worse now than it was ten years ago, … Separation of the races is the only radical solution of the negro problem in this country . . . The Negroes were brought here by compulsion; they should be induced to leave here [the U.S.] by persuasion.’ (1)
What could have happened in just eight short years to cause this about-face? A deadly race riot in Atlanta the week before was no doubt on the writer’s mind, but still, to go from lampooning Jim Crow laws in 1898 to calling for mass repatriation to Africa in 1906 is an astonishing change of heart.
b) Legislation begins
Legislatively speaking, then, the South’s iron curtain began to come down during the so-called ‘Progressive Age.’ Uncoincidentally, perhaps, this is when Afros started arriving in the cities en masse.
The first spaces to mandate apartheid were public transport.
- Railroad segregation first enacted:
- Streetcar segregation first enacted:
- Voting disenfranchisement—poll tax, literacy test, etc.—was passed between 1889 (Florida) and 1910 (Oklahoma).
During these years the older seaboard states of the South also extended the segregation laws to steamboats. (1)
Thus they all fell like dominoes: railways in the 1890s and streetcars in the 1900s, backed by the Supreme Court’s 1896 decision Plessy vs. Ferguson.
Attempts to segregate housing came later, and had a harder time before the courts. The first city to try was Baltimore, but not until 1910.
The Hoover report explains the different types of law:
- The Baltimore type: …applied only to all-white and all-Negro blocks and did not undertake to legislate for blocks upon which both white people and Negroes lived.
- The Virginia State type: Under this statute any city or town so desiring might divide its territory into “segregation districts“; designate which districts are to be for white people and which for Negroes.
- The Richmond type: Undertook to legislate for the whole city, declaring a block white whereon a majority of the residents were white, and colored whereon a majority of the people were colored. (3)
And like dominoes, similar ordinances were quickly voted in towns in N. Carolina (1912), Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia (1913), and Missouri, Texas, and Oklahoma (1916). But:
Finally, the Louisville [housing segregation] case reached the Supreme Court of the United States on November 5, 1917, and after two hearings it wasunanimously declared unconstitutional. (3)
Upheld by the courts for public areas; struck down for housing. But what is notable is when most were passed: A generation after Reconstruction.
This delayed reaction did not go unnoticed at the time. Woodward:
Wide agreement prevailed in the early years of the [20th] century that there was less sympathy, tolerance, and understanding between the races than there had been during the Reconstruction period, … Professor John Spencer Bassett of Trinity College wrote in 1903 that ‘there is today more hatred of whites for blacks and blacks for whites than ever before.’
John Temple Graves of Georgia said that ‘The races are wider apart, more antagonistic than in 1865.’ And the Negro novelist Charles W. Chestnutt said in 1903 that ‘the rights of the Negroes are at a lower ebb than at any time during the thirty-five years of their freedom, and the race prejudice more intense and uncompromising.’ (1)
How had this come to pass? Remember black journalist T. McCants Stewart, who on an 1885 trip through the South was thrilled at the service he received. He had afterwards felt confident enough to say:
‘Things seem (remember I write seem) to move along as smoothly [in the South] as in New York or Boston . . . If you should ask me, “watchman, tell us of the night” . . . I would say, “The morning light is breaking.” ‘(1)
Such optimism turned out to be sorely unfounded. Not twenty years later, the iron curtain of apartheid in the South had come down for good.
We have thus seen that in the South, the timing of Jim Crow laws matched up not with the end of Reconstruction as often thought, but with the first flooding of Blacks into the cities.
Let us now turn to the North.
Here a different sort of myth prevails: Unlike brutal Southerners, so the thinking goes, Northerners had always opened their arms to oppressed Afros, welcoming them in like brothers.
This happy story northern Whites tell themselves is far from the truth. ‘Free’ though he may have been, the northern Black has always hoed a hard row.
The Great Migration, however, brought masses of them cheek-by-jowl with urban Whites for the first time. And just as in the South, there came a sudden clampdown on their movements.
So how was life for free Blacks in the North before the 20th century? Not quite so very ‘free.’
a) Colonial times
Historian Douglas Harper:
In colonial times, Northern freemen, like slaves, were required to carry passes when traveling in some places, and they were forbidden to own property in others. Although taxed in New England, they could not vote there in early colonial times, though they could in the plantation colonies. …
Under Pennsylvania colony’s 1726 ‘Act for the better Regulation of Negroes,’free negroes who married whites were to be sold into slavery for life; for mere fornication or adultery involving blacks and whites, the penalty for the black person was to be sold as a servant for seven years. (4)
b) Early statehood
Northerners often vaunt their early abolition of slavery, but rarely mention what came next. Harper:
Both Indiana (1816) and Illinois (1818) abolished slavery by their constitutions. And both followed the Ohio policy of trying to prevent black immigration by passing laws requiring blacks who moved into the state to… post bond [up to $1000] to guarantee their good behavior.
The territories of Michigan, Iowa, and Oregon all passed similar laws in the early 1800s.
Oregon forbid blacks to hold real estate, make contracts, or bring lawsuits. Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, and California prohibited them from testifying in cases where a white man was a party. (4)
Alexis de Tocqueville, who visited the country in 1831, said:
So the Negro [in the North] is free, but he cannot share the rights, pleasures, labors, griefs, or even the tomb of him whose equal he has been declared; there is nowhere where he can meet him, neither in life nor in death. In the South, … people are prepared to mix with them to some extent; legislation is more harsh, but customs are more tolerant and gentle.
Just before the Civil War, historian Leon F. Litwack describes the situation in the North:
‘In virtually every phase of existence,’ he writes, ‘[in 1860] Negroes found themselves systematically separated from whites. They were either excluded from railway cars, omnibuses, stagecoaches, and steamboats or assigned to special sections; they sat, when permitted, in secluded and remote corners of theaters and lecture halls; they could not enter most hotels, restaurants, and resorts, except as servants; they prayed in “Negro pews.”
…Moreover, they were often educated in segregated schools, punished in segregated prisons, nursed in segregated hospitals, and buried in segregated cemeteries.’ (1)
Despite all of this, the second half of the 19th century (before the southern exodus) was often looked back at with fondness by northern Blacks, as it was the time before the de facto segregation hammer came down hardest.
From an interview with an elderly Afro-American in Mary Louise Mark’s 1928 ‘Negroes in Columbus’ (Ohio):
There was no distinct negro community in the city when the old negro resident was a boy [Civil War era]. … A very friendly feeling between the races seems to have prevailed throughout the city …
This good feeling existed until between 1886 and 1890 when a distinct change in attitude unfavorable to the negro began to be noticed. This change was spoken of by the old colored resident as being part of a general change in attitude toward the negro throughout the north.
… Whatever the cause, clashes began to occur between the races, and itbecame increasingly difficult for colored people to secure homesin Columbus. (5)
Urban League founder George E. Haynes, in the 1920s:
‘Anyone would have been considered an alarmist twenty years agohad he predicted that public opinion would allow 58 Negro homes in Chicago to be bombed with impunity as increasing numbers forced Negro residents to spread beyond the areas where they had formerly lived.’ (6)
From an interview with a black Chicagoan born around the Civil War:
‘A good many years ago colored people lived in good homes and the Irish lived in shanties. They used to call them “flannel mouth,” “mick,” and “shanty Irish.”‘ (7)
Northern Blacks started to feel a tightening on employment at this time. From the Urban League’s 1926 study ‘The Negro in Minneapolis’:
[After Emancipation] It was not the opportunity for work that brought the early Negro settlers to Minnesota, … It was the freer atmosphere of the state that attracted them. However, the employment opportunities were not as much restricted then as now [the 1920s]. … During those early days all of the barbering in the Twin Cities was done by Negroes. There were also a few Negroes engaged in banking.
[In 1893], the Negroes in Minneapolis had made considerable progress. John L. Neal, who came in 1877, had risen to be chief bookkeeper for the Buckeye Publishing Company; … Geo Wilson, who came in 1883, was employed as chief druggist by Webster and Churchill, the largest pharmaceutical chemists in Minneapolis. (8)
c) Social space
In Dayton, Ohio, ‘the colored people before the migration could go unquestioned into any place of amusement and be served to any usual public accommodation. But when five Negroes came instead of one, the erstwhile liberal-minded people began to make the natural mistake of trying to get rid of a problem instead of facing and solving it.’ (6)
d) Black nostalgia
Old-stock northern Afros did not always appreciate this influx. In Philadelphia:
Philadelphia ‘had long possessed a relatively small population of Negroes of culture, education and some financial means. They had always enjoyed the same social and educational facilities as the whites and courteous treatment from them. But, with the increase in population by a group of generally uneducated and untrained persons, these privileges were withdrawn. . . . The old colored citizens of Philadelphia resented this, placed the blame at the migrant’s door and stood aloof from him.’ (6)
Investigators of the situation in Detroit reported that the “old [black] Detroiters” held the migrants responsible for their altered status in that city, for the whites had tended to increase the discriminations against all Negroes since the influx of southern colored people. (6)
These recent migrants are said to be principally from Georgia and Alabama and are reported to be a lazy, shiftless sort. A negro boy who has lived in the village for fifteen years said that he wished someone would stop the negroes from coming up from the south and make those go back who have recently come. (5)
In Branford, Connecticut:
Even the old and respected Negro resident has found himself lumped with the “rabble” that came in around the time of World War I. (9)
What did all this mean, practically speaking, for Blacks in the North?
3) Post-Migration: A racial tightening
Thus, while race relations had always been spotty in the North, certain freedoms were enjoyed– but the goodwill of even the most progressive Whites was battered by the wave of southern Blacks who started to flood in:
Johnson concludes that “With few exceptions, the increased proportion of Negroes in the total population of cities of the North tends to increase adverse sentiment,” and Woofter likewise states “In areas gaining by migration, prejudice seems, at least temporarily, to assume its most aggravated form.” (6)
Both the Chicago Commission and the Detroit Bureau of Research found that in each city the attitude of whites had changed toward the entire Negro group, both former inhabitants and newcomers, as a result of the growth of Negro population during the migration. (6)
In what ways was this sudden change visible?
a) Work segregation
Even in such liberal-minded places as Minnesota and Connecticut, the influx led to ever more strict workplace separation. From 1920s Minneapolis:
One hundred and forty-five (145) employers [out of 238], when asked if they would employ colored workers were they to apply, replied that they would not employ them. … Here is skilled labor, and if not skilled, potentially skilled and intelligent labor begging employment. Yet a number of employers who were investigated felt the Negro to be mentally unadaptable to work requiring skill. (8)
In 1950s Branford, Connecticut (near New Haven):
The remaining businesses in town do not hire Negroes, even in the usual menial capacities. These include not only bars and taverns, and stores such as furniture, clothing, department, hardware, electric, and five-and-ten cent, but also the professional offices of law, medicine, and dentistry. “Customer reaction” is the usual reason given for these discriminatory practices. … Almost without exception, no white-collar jobs are open to Negroes. (9)
Several important industries in Chicago have not yet employed Negroes. The traction [subway] companies (both elevated and surface) do not employ them as conductors, motormen, guards, or ticket agents. The large State Street department stores have no Negro clerks, and taxicab companies do not employ colored drivers. (7)
“F” is a telegraph line man, who formerly worked in Richmond, Va. When he applied here he was told that Negroes were not employed. … “E” was light in complexion and got a job as driver ; he “kept his cap on,” but when they found he was colored they discharged him. … “D” is a dressmaker and milliner, and does bead work. “Your work is very good,” they say to her, ” but if we hired you all of our ladies would leave.” (11)
b) School segregation
Though officially outlawed in much of the North, separate schools did in fact grow over these years. Louise Kennedy in 1930:
There are also evidences that in some northern cities no attitude of discrimination was apparent as long as there were only a few colored children, but when large numbers arrived, the tendency toward forced segregation became more noticeable. (6)
There are 42 separate public schools for Negroes in Pennsylvania. This separation is frankly carried out in some quarters and subtly in others. … In southern New Jersey segregation is carried to the point of dividing a building so that white and Negro children are completely separated… and a heavy wire screen dividing the playground. . . . The situation in New Jersey is by no means atypical. (6)
c) Social segregation
As far as separation in social spaces, a black man in 1950s Connecticut put it this way:
‘Down South they tell you where they want you and don’t want you. Here they all act nice, and they discriminate against you quietly and politely, like serving other people ahead of you.’
The White’s perspective:
One bartender spoke frankly when he said, “There are lots of ways you can get around them: put a head on their beer, serve them in a different glass to show you don’t want them around, break the glass when they’re finished.” Or they may be told before being served that they have had enough to drink. (9)
Also in Branford, Connecticut:
Apple Valley Country Club is the most exclusive social group in town, and admittance of Negroes is out of the question. It is even difficult for Italians and most Jews to get in. … As the member [of one women’s club] put it, “No Negro could get in even if Hell froze over“. (9)
In a 1919 interview, the manager of a large cafeteria chain in Chicago admits:
‘Under the law, we can’t refuse to let [Blacks] eat, but we can charge them any price we like. The first time we charge them enough to keep them from coming back. Then if they persist and come again, as soon as they go down the line, I see to it that something is put in their food which makes it taste bad — salt or Epsom salts. They never come back after that.’ After a pause he added, ‘You know we are within the law. We can’t have them coming here — it would ruin our trade.’ (7)
In a  study which was made of recreational facilities in northern cities it was found that ‘in the 40 northern cities (studied) . . . there is some form of segregation practiced in connection with the Negro and public recreation in at least two-thirds of their number.’ (6)
d) Housing segregation
Housing segregation laws in the South, we have seen, were struck down by the courts. So Northerners used different tactics.
d1) By private contract
From the 1932 Hoover Report:
The practice of entering into covenants to exclude Negroes from certain areas accomplishes [segregation] in areas of the North. … These exclusion methods have been reinforced by violence in Chicago, Detroit, White Plains, New York, Washington, and Philadelphia. (3)
A ‘covenant’ was simply a private written agreement that you wouldn’t sell your house to a black person for __ number of years (could be 50, 100, etc.).
The first challenge of the covenants came in 1923 … The court ruled in 1924 that the covenant was valid and did not invade the constitutional rights of Negroes, inasmuch as Negroes had the right to enter into agreements to keep white persons out of Negro neighborhoods.
The U.S. Supreme Court, declaring that it had no jurisdiction, refused to review the two cases brought to it… Thus, it seems that what is unconstitutional and bad policy for a state or municipality is possible and legal by private agreement. (3)
d2) By Violence and Intimidation
Also from the Hoover Report:
Where laws and private contracts have failed [in the North], mobs have attempted to maintain the racial integrity of neighborhoods. In Chicago, following the protests and agitation of the Hyde Park Property Owners’ Association, the homes of 58 Negro families were bombed within a period of less than four years.
… In Cleveland Heights OH in 1924 handbills were distributed carrying this message: “Be Sure to Read This. Certain niggers … are now trying to erect a house at 11114 Wade Park Avenue to Blackmail us. … Appoint your committees to oppose and eradicate this group of Black Gold Diggers. Let them know we can duplicate [the recent] riots in Tulsa, St. Louis, Chicago, and Baltimore.” (3)
Not just in the Midwest but in the East:
In White Plains, New York, a cross was burned on the lawn and an attempt made to wreck the home of a Negro woman. There have been … clashes in practically every state experiencing a Negro population increase, from Virginia to California. … The home of a Negro insurance auditor in Denver was demolished in 1926. Fifty masked men attempted to frighten a Negro woman from her home in Union, New Jersey, by throwing crude bombs and burning a fiery cross. (3)
d3) By White Flight
Despite this strong resistance on the part of northern Whites, Blacks were largely successful in ‘invading’ their neighborhoods and driving them out.
From ‘The Housing of Negroes in Washington, D.C.’ (1929):
The process begins usually with a Negro family moving into a house in “the very middle” of the block. The natural sequence is general alarm and the immediate appearance of signs “For Sale” on the adjoining houses on both sides. And in a very short time Negroes become the immediate neighbors of the original “invader.”
The same process is repeated on both sides of these two purchasers, and, with the rapid multiplication of the “For Sale” notices, it is only a matter of a few months before one may see scores of colored children roller skating on the sidewalks or playing contentedly on the lawns, symbolizing the fact that the area which once belonged exclusively to white people has become a Negro neighborhood. (10)
Columbus, OH, 1928 :
The whites bitterly resisted the encroachment of the negroes at first. … This effort is said to have been overcome by strategy. The negroes bought homes on the new streets through white real estate dealers who kept the color of the buyer a secret until the transaction was completed.
… One negro who has lived in the neighborhood since 1899 said: “It was fun to see the white people run after a negro family moved onto the street.” (5)
The author of the Washington, D.C. report, Howard University professor W.H. Jones, makes some startling admissions. For example:
Most of the communities which Negroes have invaded have been more desirable than those from which they expanded, and, in many instances , after having deteriorated these invaded communities, they have pushed on to new neighborhoods to repeat the same process. (10)
He thus admits that Afros ‘deteriorate’ the communities they ‘invade.’ But it’s not so bad, because
White people can move from such communities with much less injury to themselves—even though they suffer some temporary disadvantages —than Negroes can remain in the congested unwholesome environments which have been assigned to them.
Were they ‘assigned’ unwholesome communities, or did they ‘deteriorate’ them on their own? He seems unsure. One final admission:
In general, it is not culturally advantageous for Negroes to move onto virgin soil. Rather, they must appropriate areas of the city which have already been developed. For when the white man abandons these communities, he leaves behind remnants of his culture—his homes, his churches, schools, parks, playgrounds, and apartment buildings. (10)
In both the South and the North, then, we see a relatively more relaxed attitude when urban Blacks were few in number, which became a strong desire for separation as their ranks grew.
But all of this was a century ago. Surely we have left such attitudes in the past, where they belong?
As all American schoolchildren know, after WWII the Civil Rights movement picked up, leading to the Supreme Court forcing school integration in 1954 (Brown vs Board of Education of Topeka) and an official end to Jim Crow laws in 1964 (Civil Rights Act). ‘Separate but equal’ was no longer allowed.
Or was it?
One of the biggest current myths about segregation in the U.S. is that it’s a thing of the past. We at TWCS argue that this is merely a polite fiction.
Despite fifty years of civil rights laws and twenty years of hard-core diversitopia boosterism, there is something about ethnic Sub-Saharan Africans that still pushes ethnic Euros to want to live and go to school as far from them as possible.
But housing segregation is illegal– so how do they do it?
a) Bidding up housing
The first way modern Whites are pushing segregation is by pricing undesirable ethnicities out of their neighborhoods.
Elizabeth Warren (via Steve Sailer) explains in The Two Income Trap:
Even as millions of mothers marched into the workforce, savings declined, and not, as we will show, because families were frittering away their paychecks on toys for themselves or their children. Instead, families were swept up in a bidding war, competing furiously with one another for their most important possession: a house in a decent school district…
Bad schools impose indirect—but huge—costs on millions of middle-class families. In their desperate rush to save their children from failing schools, families are literally spending themselves into bankruptcy.
Sailer fills in the blanks:
Overwhelmingly, though, Americans use the term “bad schools” to mean—“bad students.” That’s the single most important key to the “two-income trap.” Parents spend huge amounts of money to keep their children away from dim and dangerous fellow students.
NYC Whites, some of the most liberal in the country, are fighting hard for segregation:
To the city, the solution for the overcrowding at [white] P.S. 8 seemed obvious:move those two neighborhoods from [white] P.S. 8’s zone and into that of [black] P.S. 307, which is nearby and has room to spare.
The proposal, however, has drawn intense opposition … For all its diversity, New York City, by some measures, has one of the most segregated school systems in the country.
These Brooklyn Heights parents did not spend millions on condos in order to send their kids to school in the projects.
b) Private schools
Another way Whites segregate today is by taking advantage of private schools, which ‘dim and dangerous’ students can’t afford. This seems to be the preferred tactic of the deep South, where the 1954 desegregation order was bitterly resisted:
This map shows the gap between the percentage of all school-aged children who are white vs. the percentage of private-school students who are white. The biggest gap is in Mississippi, where in 2012, white students comprised 51 percent of all school-aged students but 87 percent of private-school students — a gap of 36 percentage points. The average national gap that year was about 15 percentage points.
c) Via the Courts
Southern politicians have successfully lobbied for an end to desegregation orders dating back decades:
Since 2000 , judges have released hundreds of school districts, from Mississippi to Virginia, from court-enforced integration, and many of these districts have followed the same path as Tuscaloosa’s—back toward segregation. Black children across the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades.
The principal [of an all-black Tuscaloosa school] struggles to explain to students how the segregation they experience is any different from the old version simply because no law requires it. “It is hard, it is a tough conversation, and it is a conversation I don’t think we as adults want to have.”
d) Charter schools
Charter schools have also become a new tool of re-segregation. In North Carolina:
North Carolina’s charter schools [opened in 1997] have become a way for white parents to secede from the public school system, as they once did to escape racial integration orders. … Charter schools in North Carolina tend to be either overwhelmingly black or overwhelmingly white–in contrast to traditional public schools, which are more evenly mixed.
A state program intended to help integrate school districts and balance academic opportunities for children of all races has actually resulted in increased racial segregation. A new University of Minnesota analysis finds that more white students than students of color across the Twin Cities metropolitan area are leaving racially diverse districts to enroll in predominantly white districts, a variation of the “white flight” of the 1970s and 1980s.
In New Jersey:
(Board of Education president Leon Gold) ‘I just am so convinced that Hoboken represents everything wrong with the charter school system. It’s a charter school system gone totally astray. … We have a case in Hoboken where in fact the charter schools have become a white flight school.
They hide behind the lottery … “Random” is not random [if] you put a few biases in the system. For example … you have to go out and go through the effort to sign up … I am accusing none of them of being racist. I’m saying these numbers speak for themselves, and in fact there’s this huge disparity.’
e) School vouchers (‘school choice’)
Even the conservatives’ ‘race-blind’ pet program, school vouchers (a.k.a. ‘school choice’), has led to similar outcomes. In Michigan:
‘School choice has accelerated segregation by race, by class, by ability, by special education status and by language,’ said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University. … Today, Michigan’s school choice law has led to several districts that are far more majority white, while creating additional districts in which minority students are in the majority.
And in Ohio:
Open enrollment, which allows children to transfer from one school district to another, leads to widespread racial segregation and concentrates poverty in many of Ohio’s urban school districts. … The majority of students who participated in Ohio’s oldest school choice program are disproportionately white and middle class. Students attending the schools they left, however, are nearly twice as likely to be minority and seven times more likely to be poor.
f) Forming their own cities / districts
In a number of big cities, modern Whites have all but fled downtown for the suburbs. Many are now trying cut the cord for good by officially breaking off into their own cities / school districts. In Atlanta:
In 2011, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia seeking to dissolve the city charters of [Atlanta suburbs] Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills. The lawsuit claimed, the paper reported, that the state “circumvented the normal legislative process and set aside its own criteria when creating the ‘super-majority white’ cities within Fulton and DeKalb counties.”
And the results of all these machinations–what does the data say?
a) Education numbers
The U.S. Dept. of Education has begun releasing data on racial ‘density.’ From this study, we see that, for example, in Alabama, the average black pupil goes to a school that is 63% black. In Illinois, that number is 62%. However, in Illinois they make up only 15% of the population, while in Alabama they’re 27%.
The relationship between these two numbers is what interests us. It can be seen here for all states in the study (click to enlarge):
(Note that some states had too few black pupils to include in the study.)
Looking at just the top half of the graph, one is struck by how many northern states’ school systems are just as segregated as southern ones, but with a much smaller black population.
We divided the first number by the second, and mapped the results (here only for states with 10% or more black population):
The South’s public schools appear as among the least segregated, perhaps due to the very high percentage of black pupils there.
Here are the results for all the states included in the study:
b) Housing numbers
The best way to feel out residential segregation is by using a ‘Segregation Index.’ (100% = fully segregated, 0% = fully integrated [more details here])
The University of Michigan looked at the 2010 census data and came up with such an index, at the neighborhood level, for every U.S. metro area of over 500,000 people.
When one looks at only metros with significant black population, here is what one sees. (Note that these are not cities but metro areas, meaning suburbs as well, and in some cases adjoining towns.)
The 15 most segregated metro areas in 2010:
The 15 least segregated metro areas in 2010:
One is struck by the fact that 13 of 15 ‘most segregated’ are found in the North, while 14 of 15 ‘least segregated’ are in the South.
So, is there any correlation between the number of Blacks in the population and Whites’ desire to self-segregate? We have plotted these two variables (click to enlarge):
As it turns out, there is—but only for Northern states (.70 correlation) and Western states (.65 correlation).
Data source (click to enlarge)
For the South? No correlation to speak of—a measly .23 coefficient.
Data source (click to enlarge)
If we break the South into ‘Deep South’ and ‘Upper South,’ those numbers are .31 and .45, respectively.
Texas, however, seems to act very differently from the rest of the South—if it is considered separately (six metro areas, about 18 million people), we find a very high correlation there indeed–.89 on average for those cities.
What does all this mean? The first thing it shows is that the anecdotes above tell the truth–Black-white segregation is alive and well in the 21st century U.S.A.
The second thing it shows is stark regional difference. We posited that the higher the Afro population becomes, the more ethnic Euros will try to segregate themselves. The data seems to show that residentially, this is true—but only for the North and West (including Texas), not the South. The ‘why’ behind these correlation levels remains to be seen.
Having looked at the many and varied ways that Euro-Americans have sought to separate themselves from Afros, both yesterday and today, let us now turn to the why.
It is a popular myth that Euros have always fled Afro encroachment due to some kind of irrational fear of melanin. But the evidence hardly bears this out. As we have seen, Euro-Americans from a century ago, just as today, had concrete reasons for fleeing black in-migration. Let’s revisit them.
A white homeowner in post-war Levittown, PA said of his new black neighbor, David Myers, “[he’s] probably a nice guy, but every time I look at him I see $2,000 drop off the value of my house.” Confirmation from the 1919 Chicago race commission report:
No single factor has complicated the relations of Negroes and whites in Chicago more than the widespread feeling of white people that the presence of Negroes in a neighborhood is a cause of serious depreciation of property.
[…] A leading real estate dealer said that “when a Negro moves into a block the value of the properties on both sides of the street is depreciated all the way from $100,000 to $500,000 [$1,300,000 to $6,500,000 today], depending upon the value of the property in the block”; that it was a fact and that there was no escaping it. (7)
The same was true across the country at the time, and is still true today:
In most times and places, then, Afro encroachment into a neighborhood has sent its property values falling. But why?
There were four main reasons (originally explored in modified form here), and readers today may be surprised to learn that little has changed in a hundred years.
a) Neighborhood disorder
One criticism from Euro-Americans has been that Afros’ community standards are not the same as theirs.
The exclusive occupancy of a block by Negroes is usually followed by less care of streets and alleys. […] From the office manager of a South Side real estate firm: Much depreciation, he said, can be attributed to Negro tenants; they are much harder on houses than white tenants of the same station in life; they do not take proper care of the furnaces or plumbing, and the higher rents paid by them merely cover the cost of the additional repairs;… (7)
Columbus OH, 1928:
A man representing a building and loan company says that the negroes as a race do not keep their property up and so they soon make a community undesirable for a good class of white people. He cites the principal negro districts in the city as evidence. (5)
Their perceived noisiness was also disliked. Washington D.C., 1929:
There is the rather general belief among white people that Negroes are highly gregarious, with inclinations to have too many people around their homes—with a special tendency to congregate on the front porches. This tendency was generally referred to as looking “bad for the community.” (10)
In a canvas of 200 homes in Washington D.C., whites were asked why they objected to black neighbors. The top responses:
John Dollard, who did a racial study in small-town Mississippi in the 1930s:
In general the white side [of town] is quieter, especially at night; there are fewer people moving on the streets, although the number of whites and Negroes in town is about the same. A sense of discipline and order is more apparent. People are more likely to move about in cars. There is less walking, loitering, and laughing than on the negro side. (13)
From a 2005 Chicago study on ‘urban disorder’:
White residents were far more likely to report disorder than black or Latino residents living in the same neighborhood — sensitivities that might explain, they theorized, why whites are relatively scarce in many city neighborhoods.
That is, what Blacks and Latinos consider ‘normal’ living conditions are seen as ‘disordered’ by Whites. One clue as to why the latter are so averse to living near the former?
But then the number-crunching got really interesting. As the proportion of black residents in a neighborhood increased, white residents’ perception of disorder also soared — even in neighborhoods that the [visual] raters had judged to be no more ramshackle than others with a smaller proportion of black residents.
The ‘visual raters’ watched video taken of city streets, judging purely by this cue how ‘disordered’ it was.
Much to the researchers’ surprise, they saw the same patterns when they looked at the perceptions of black residents. As the percentage of African Americans in the neighborhood increased, the percentage of black residents who judged their neighborhood to be in disarray also rose — out of proportion to the neighborhood’s [visual] rating. Among Latinos, the pattern was even starker. They were far more likely than either blacks or whites to be negatively affected by the increased presence of black residents, the researchers found.
How then to explain the fact that Whites, Blacks, and Latinos all feel less at ease as the number of their black neighbors soar? One possibility is that they are all confused. Another is that they are all racist (in Blacks’ case, against themselves). Or maybe it is that daily unpleasant interactions with these Afro neighbors–not captured on the ‘visual raters’ videos–lead to a belief one’s neighborhood is, in fact, more unpleasant.
From a study of urban blight in modern Brooklyn:
Some of the black pioneers in [Brooklyn’s] Lefferts Manor evidence resentment over the fact that the neighborhood is now predominately black. … Their explanations for wanting to relocate in white areas are universal. A common theme is that past experience has taught them that in black neighborhoods there is a gradual decrease in the quality and quantity of city services — sanitation, police, [etc.].
Confusing cause and effect, these black-flighters claimed to not understand that garbage men were less careful in neighborhoods that dumped their refuse everywhere, and that police were less motivated to work where citizens routinely menace them and practice ‘no snitching.’
A sense of general disorder, then, does seem to follow Afros into the areas in which they live, alienating their Euro neighbors.
b) Lack of family values
Whites in America have often shied away from living near those whom they perceive as not sharing their moral values.
[W.E.B. DuBois, writing of Philadelphia in 1899:] The number of deserted wives, however, allowing for false reports, is astoundingly large and presents many intricate problems. A very large part of charity given to Negroes is asked for this reason. … Here is a wide field for social regeneration.
[…] There can be no doubt but what sexual looseness is to-day the prevailing sin of the mass of the Negro population, and that its prevalence can be traced to bad home life in most cases. Children are allowed on the street night and day unattended; loose talk is often indulged in; the sin is seldom if ever denounced in the churches. (11)
Huffman says that in 1894 more than one-fourth of the colored births in the city of Washington were illegitimate. Many prominent Negroes admit that above ninety per cent of both sexes are unchaste. A negro may be a pillar in the church and at the same time the father of a dozen illegitimate children by as many mothers. (12)
Euro-Americans still sense that Afro citizens do not share their familial values, and that this makes them poor neighbors. The latter have lower marriage rates, higher divorce rates, more unwed motherhood (formerly known as ‘illegitimacy’), more child abuse, engage in more gambling, have poorer credit, their children have more school discipline problems, and they’re far less likely to have two parents in the home:
Black criminality–which has been higher than that of Whites for all of recorded U.S. history–has long been given as a reason for desiring separation.
[W.E.B. DuBois:] In the city of Philadelphia the increasing number of bold and daring crimes committed by Negroes in the last ten years [1889-1899] has focused the attention of the city on this subject. There is a widespread feeling that something is wrong with a race that is responsible for so much crime, and that strong remedies are called for. (12)
The numbers bear him out: (click to enlarge)
These concerns remain common a century later: (click to enlarge)
d) Undesirable schoolmates
Schooling one’s children separately was much easier in the past, and many white parents preferred to do so. But for what reasons?
Ethnic Euros have long resisted schooling their children with Afros:
The Ohio courts upheld [school] segregation in 1850 and 1859, rejecting the idea of integration and declaring that, “whether consistent with true philanthropy or not … there still is an almost invincible repugnance to such communion and fellowship.” (4)
Schoolteachers a century ago found black children to be both cognitively and morally challenged:
Thus a teacher in one of the elementary schools of Chicago finds that “colored children are restive and incapable of abstract thought; they must be constantly fed with novel interests and given things to do with their hands.”
The assistant principal of a Chicago high school attended by Negroes said: “When it comes to morality, I say colored children are unmoral. They have no more moral sense than a very young white child. Along sex lines they don’t know that this is wrong and that is wrong — that wrong sense isn’t a part of them. (7)
The School Superintendent of Birmingham, AL , quoted in 1910:
‘The black child has a good word-memory and a good eye-memory. He will often learn by rote quicker than a white child — but it is a different thing when it comes to understanding what he learns. Such an imitative function as writing comes at least as easy to the negro as to the white ; but in anything that requires reasoning — in mathematics, for instance — the negro soon falls behind.’ (14)
Little has changed among white opinion. Above, Steve Sailer notes that white parents are still fleeing schools full of what they think are ‘dim and dangerous’ students. Is such a belief warranted?
Neighborhood disorder, different morals, higher crime, dim and dangerous schoolmates: The evidence clearly shows that from the Great Migration onward, Afros’ reputation preceded them–and where it did not, Euro-Americans have quickly fled what they reasonably perceived as undesirable neighbors.
* * *
In Caste and Class in a Southern Town (1937), John Dollard wrote:
Caste has replaced slavery as a means of maintaining the essence of the old status order in the South. By means of it racial animosity is held at a minimum.
In both North and South, as we have seen, a certain tolerance of caste mixing was permitted when black numbers remained small. As they grew, so did Whites’ desire to separate.
… American caste is pinned not to cultural but to biological features—to color, features, hair form, and the like. … In the course of time the physical stigmata may be left isolated as the only warrant of caste difference.The cultural stigmata of the past seem likely to disappear altogether. (13)
Here Dollard showed an optimism that has proved unfounded. Unlike so many groups that came after them (Italians, Irish, Jews, Greeks, Chinese, even Hispanics), Afros have continued, to this day, to elicit a very strong separation response in Euro-Americans. Not because of their ‘physical stigmata,’ but indeed because of the culture we rightly associate with it.
As we have seen, the different evolutionary path Africans have tread has left them with such divergent levels of future orientation, impulse control, aggressivity, abstract reasoning ability and out-group empathy, that other groups find it devilishly hard to ‘mesh’ with them.
The segregation regime–de jure or de facto–was a series of daily humiliations that proved exasperating and embittering for America’s Afros. But there is every evidence that it is their own behavioral make-up, and not a baseless fear of melanin, which has continually pushed Euros to try to avoid them. It is an ugly truth, but an inescapable one.
The policy solution? Unfortunately, we don’t see one. The most compassionate Whites, from Abraham Lincoln to Francis Scott Key, always believed the situation was untenable long-term, and advocated the same thing men like Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X later would: Physical separation. Today such a notion is unthinkable–unless it comes from people of color themselves.
It is impossible for us to say where the multicultural question is headed. But the data, both empirical and anecdotal, is clear: Despite all the ‘forcing and cajoling,’ the profound discomfort caused by large numbers of Euros and Afros living cheek-by-jowl does not seem to be abating.
Policy-makers have no hope of finding a solution to this endless conundrum if they don’t take the time to understand which aspects of the segregation story are true, and which are (potentially dangerous) myths.
Thank you for reading.
(1) Woodward, C. Vann, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, Oxford U. Press, 1955.
(2) Carter, Wilmoth A., The Urban Negro in the South, Negro Main Street and its Evolution, New York, Vantage Press, 1961.
(3) Burroughs, Nannie H., chairman, Report of the Committe on Negro Housing, called by President Hoover, Washington D.C.: National Capital Press, 1932.
(4) Harper, Douglas, Slavery in the North: The Exclusion of Free Blacks, 2003.
(5) Mark, Mary Louise, Negroes in Columbus, Columbus, Ohio State U. Press, 1928.
(6) Venable Kennedy, Louise, The Negro Peasant Turns Cityward: Effects of Recent Migrations to Northern Centers, Columbia U. Press: New York, 1930.
(7) Chicago Commission on Race Relations, The Negro in Chicago, A Study of Race Relations and a Race Riot , U. of Chicago Press, 1919.
(8) Minneapolis Urban League, The Negro Population in Minneapolis: A Study of Race Relations, 1926.
(9) Lee, Frank F., Negro and White in Connecticut Town, NY: Bookman Associates, 1961.
(10) Jones, William Henry, The housing of negroes in Washington, D.C.; a study in human ecology, Washington: Howard U. Press, 1929.
(11) DuBois, W.E.B., The Philadelphia Negro, NY: Lippincott, 1899.
(12) Collins, W.H., The Truth About Lynching and the Negro in the South, New York: Neale Publishing Co., 1918.
(13) Dollard, John, Caste and Class in a Southern Town, U. of Wisconsin Press, 1937.
(14) Archer, William. Through Afro-America: An English Reading of the Race Problem. London: Chapman & Hall, 1910.