Thoughts on neighborhood change-1953

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I heard an innocent comment at a neighborhood meeting, that residents should have a hand in creating the character of the neighborhood. Yes, the residents should and do have a hand in creating the character of the neighborhood. But then there are forces beyond the current residents' control.

Yet I couldn't help think of a blog post that mentioned two areas in the DC metro region that changed despite the protests of residents. The first was over in PG County in the 70s, 80s, and 90s where residents fought against the Smoot Bay project with concerns over the environment, the watershed, and traffic. Despite that long fight it became the National Harbor anyway.

The other area is another neighborhood that isn't Shaw so I'm quite sure there are things I will miss in retelling this story of neighborhood change. The other thing I'm going to ask you dear reader is not to be haughty believing in your own moral superiority when looking at the DC residents of 1953 to whom I will direct your attention. We all have faults, ours happen to be in fashion right now. So in early 1953 the DC Housing Authority in charge of building public housing decided due to several factors that maybe it should try integrating its properties. There was a plan already to add two additions to an existing apartment building for whites, so why not make the new wings integrated?

The residents of the building and of the neighborhood where the building and the planned additions were, reacted against integration. I've seen a number of letters, a majority look like they are based on a form letter. They mainly read as so:
Dear Sirs,
We residents of the [neighborhood name] are requesting a reversal of the integration policy laid down by [the housing authority] March 26, 1953 for opening the H. Dwelling extension in the near future.
We believe that at this time, with already strained facilities of every kind as a result of the present drastically overcrowded conditions, a policy of this kind could only make much more crowded facilities and make an almost impossible situation for everyday living in this community.
Yours/ Sincerely,
[Letter Writer]

I have my doubts about the crowded conditions, the tract is much, much  larger than Truxton Circle and that area wasn't as developed as the Old City. But I wasn't there and I don't know the history of the neighborhood. The 1950 Census has the tract, and it is a pretty big tract, with over 33,000 residents, about 92% of them white. It was hard track the changes of the neighborhood because the size and number of the Census tract kept changing each year. One year it is Tract 73, then it becomes 73.5 in 1960 and 98 in 1970 as that section of DC gets built up. In 1960 there were over 9,000 residents, 77% of them white. When DC becomes a majority African American city, so does this neighborhood in Tract 98, where the 8,660 residents are 98.4% black, and remains somewhat so today. What a difference 10 years makes and a greater difference in 20 years.
Those 1953 residents, the majority who were for segregation, had no impact except in their eventual departure. Yes, they were wrong on the subject of integration and race. But I wonder how future generations will judge us regarding development and resistance to change. Maybe they will despise us and our love affair with cars and parking. Maybe they will be annoyed with our refusal for so many years to build taller buildings. We can ask the DC residents of the future to preserve or keep or care for this that and the other thing. We may never know their answer. In the case of one of the 1953 letter writers.....
1953 Card to Keep CH White
My answer to Mrs. Alfandre, is no.

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This page contains a single entry by Mari published on May 17, 2017 7:00 PM.

Author's Talk Review: Race, Class and Politics in the Cappuccino City was the previous entry in this blog.

Corner of 3rd & P is the next entry in this blog.

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