Col. Joshua John Ward of Georgetown, South Carolina: 1,130
Known as “King of the Rice Planters,” Ward had 1,130 enslaved Blacks on the Brookgreen plantation in South Carolina. In 1850, Ward controlled six large plantations and produced 3.9 million pounds of rice.
Dr. Stephen Duncan of Issaquena, Mississippi: 858 Duncan was a businessman who collectively enslaved more than 2,000 Blacks during his time as one of the best cotton producers. The most he enslaved at one time was 858 in Issaquena. Duncan owned more than 15 plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana.
John Burneside of Ascension, Louisiana: 753
Burneside was the largest sugar producer in the country during his time at the Houmas Plantation. Before he died, he owned 10 different plantations.
Meredith Calhoun of Rapides, Louisiana: 709
Plantations belonging to Calhoun surrounded the riverboat landing that would one day become the town of Colfax. At the peak of production, the Calhoun plantations held more than 700 Blacks in slavery and produced more cotton than any other property in Louisiana. The Calhouns established one of the largest sugar mills in Louisiana, and the estate was valued in excess of $1 million in the 1860 census, a considerable holding at that time.
William Aiken of Colleton, South Carolina: 700
Aiken was one of the state’s wealthiest citizens, owner of the largest rice plantation in the state — Jehossee Island — with over 700 enslaved Blacks on 1,500 acres under cultivation, almost twice the acreage of the next largest plantation. By 1860, Aiken owned the entire Jehossee Island, and the plantation produced 1.5 million pounds of rice in addition to sweet potatoes and corn — in the middle of the 19th century, rice was king in South Carolina — of the 10 largest cash crops in 1850, seven were rice, two cotton and one sugar. After the Civil War, the plantation regained its preeminence, producing 1.2 million pounds of rice. Today, descendants of the Aiken family, the Maybanks, still own part of the island, having sold the remainder in 1992 to the U.S. as part of the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.
Gov. John L. Manning of Ascension, Louisiana: 670
Manning owned at least two plantations holding 670 Blacks against their will. One in South Carolina and another in Louisiana. He was a major supporter of succeeding from the Union.
Col. Joseph A. S. Acklen of West Feliciana, Louisiana: 659
As the second husband to “the mistress of Belmont” Adelicia Acklen, Joseph Acklen tripled the value of his wife’s million-dollar estate. They had seven Louisiana cotton plantations; the 2,000-acre Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, Tennessee; more than 50,000 acres of undeveloped land in Texas; stocks and bonds; and 659 enslaved Blacks.
Gov. Robert Francis Withers Allston of Georgetown, South Carolina: 631
His family was able to maintain two houses in Georgetown and several plantations, including the Allston ancestral home on the Pee Dee River, Chicora Wood — one of the five plantations Robert Allston owned, with over 900 acres and more than 600 enslaved Blacks.
African-Americans seemingly share a common struggle against the power structure that is white supremacy, it’s no secret that the two groups have a less-than-ideal relationship.
Former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib experienced the rift first hand after participating in a protest demanding police accountability in the deadly shooting of Kevin Matthews, an unarmed Black man, by a Dearborn police officer in 2015. Speaking to The Arab American News, Tlaib said she was met with snide remarks from big-name members from the Arab community, revealing anti-Black sentiments among some leaders.
“‘Why are you there? Why are you against Chief [Ronald] Haddad?’” the ex-representative said she was told. “‘This makes the Arabs look bad. You guys shouldn’t be there. This isn’t your issue.’”
Tlaib denounced anti-Black attitudes held by members within the Arab and Middle Eastern societies, saying, “No one, I don’t care what color, what faith, should be dehumanized like that. The anti-Blackness that’s happening across this world is real. It’s very painful.”
Relations between Blacks and Arabs in Tlaib’s native Detroit have been strained for years, prompting the local politician to call for sincere efforts from her fellow Arab-Americans to try and empathize with Black Americans and their fight against police brutality. Moreover, she urged Arab-Americans to remain self-aware of their own racial biases.
The newspaper noted that a prominent Arab-American activist from Dearborn was arrested at a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., following the fatal shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown in 2014. Back in Detroit, however, Arab-Americans were on social media dubbing the protesters “thugs.”
“It’s a fractured relationship,” said Rana Elmir, deputy executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Ultimately, it’s a relationship that’s based on transactions, as opposed to true understanding, solidarity, empathy.”
Elmir, an outspoken activist for allyship between communities, explained that building an understanding between the two groups could take some time and noted the responsibility of both Arab-Americans and Black Americans to make an effort to mend the fray. She pointed to the geographical segregation of concentrated areas of African-Americans and Arab-Americans in Southeast Michigan, which has made it harder for the two groups to break racial misconceptions they have about one another
“We often come together when there is a problem, when there is a need for communities to come together because there was a shooting or because of an eruption of anger or fear,” she told The American Arab News. “But outside those news events, are we having these difficult conversations?”
Amer Zahr, a comedian and adjunct law professor at the University of Detroit, highlighted the fact that some of the anti-Black attitudes in the Arab-American community stem from the designation of Arab-Americans as “Caucasian” in the U.S. census. He noted that Arab-Americans often interact with African-Americans in business settings (gas stations, liquor stores), creating a “transactional” relationship that has spurred bigotry on both sides.
“When you own a business in a low-income community that’s not very mobile, and people have to come to you, that creates a position of power structure that’s not very healthy for creating relationships that are good to social justice,” he told the newspaper, adding that Arab-Americans need to start identifying themselves as an oppositional group against the system.
A New Jersey professor claims she was “publicly lynched” after she was suspended “until further notice” following an on-air feud with Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Former Essex County College professor Lisa Durden got into a heated argument with the political pundit during a live segment earlier this month where she passionately defended the Black Lives Matter movement and its “Blacks-only” Memorial Day event barring non-Black people from attending. At one point in the frenzied exchange, Durden tells Carlson, “Boo-hoo-hoo, you white people are just angry you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited into the Black Lives Matter all-Black Memorial Day celebration.”
The public dispute ultimately cost the professor her job.
Durden told Inside Higher Ed she was escorted from her classroom at the majority-Black college and whisked into a meeting with Essex administrators who told her she was being suspended and investigated. An angry phone call to the school from one of Tucker’s loyal viewers who griped about the professor’s “exclusionary attitude” likely spurred the suspension.
“They wanted to send a message,” Durden said, claiming Essex used her as an example to other outspoken professors. “‘[You] see what happened to Lisa Durden? You know it could happen to me.’”
“Free speech doesn’t matter if you’re a professor; make people mad and you’re in trouble,” she added.
Durden said the viewer’s complaint came as a surprise, seeing as she regularly appears on Fox News and other news shows to discuss everything from “Kim Kardashian’s ass to tough issues such as Black Lives Matter.” In fact, she claims it was her outspoken attitude and the fact that she had appeared on so many networks that led Essex College to bring her on as an adjunct professor of communications.
During her time on Carlson’s show, Durden never identified herself as an Essex professor and made it clear that she was speaking on behalf of herself, not Black Lives Matter. Still, the college moved to fire her. “
[Essex County] college promotes a community of unity that is inclusive of all,” Jeffrey Lee, vice president for academic affairs, told NJ.com in a statement. “[The] general counsel has handled this matter in a way that complies with New Jersey state law. I am not at liberty to provide further details.”
Durden said she feels the college is “kowtowing” to a “racist” critic instead of standing up for hers and other professors’ First Amendment right to free speech. Her suspension has since prompted students and fellow professors to pen letters to the administration calling for her reinstatement.
“For those of us who are involved in advocacy, politics, who may hold opinions which differ from those in different spaces, this kind of thing has a terrible chilling effect,” Rebecca Williams, an assistant professor of humanities, wrote in her letter to the administration. “As this suspension will become public in the world of academia — and especially in Black public intellectual circles — it will bring more negative publicity to our institution even as we are trying to move forward with our new president,”
Communications Professor Jennifer Wager agreed, saying, “I find it shocking that an African-American woman would be so disrespected at her place of employment for merely exercising her First Amendment right to free speech.”
Durden’s supporters have since launched an online petition toward her reinstatement that has amassed nearly 1,200 signatures. The ousted professor said someone else has taken over her course.
This past weekend, a coalition of Black community groups in Seattle, Wash., commemorated Juneteenth with the ceremonial groundbreaking of a new affordable housing building project aimed at encouraging African-Americans to return to the city’s Central District.
Fittingly dubbed the Future Liberty Bank Building, the new real estate project will honor Seattle’s first Black-owned bank that once occupied a much smaller establishment right where the housing is set to be built, local station KUOW.org reported.
Andrea Caupain, CEO of Centerstone, one of the groups involved in the project told, the station the coalition is working to encourage Black residents who have been displaced or priced out of the neighborhood to move back, while still abiding by Seattle’s first-come, first-serve rental rules.
“It’s not going to be a situation where we’re only going to market to the African-American community or we will turn someone away who is not African-American,” Caupain said. “But, really, how do we dive deeper and go specific and target the African-American community, people who we know want to come back to the CD?”
The local CEO said the groups plan to market their goals to areas of the Black community where information regarding affordable housing has failed to reach city residents. She said the coalition also has reached out to local Black-owned businesses to help occupy Liberty’s many retail spaces.
“We’re looking at Black businesses that have been in the Central Area for a long time, that have a strong desire to stay in the community,” Caupain told KUOW. “We’re also looking at Black businesses that maybe were here before and had a desire to continue their business, but for various different reasons, including affordability, could not continue.”
On its website, the Liberty Bank Building development touts itself as an affordable housing and community empowerment project focused on creating a new standard for real estate in Seattle’s Central District. Local groups The Black Community Impact Alliance, Africatown-Central District Preservation and Development Association, Capitol Hill Housing and Centerstone all have a hand in the community-led effort to redevelop the area.
The new project promises to offer a number of advantages to residents, including support for Black-owned businesses, affordable commercial spaces for local businesses, a track to long-term Black ownership of the building and the prioritization of local and minority hiring.
Caupain said construction on the development is expected to begin later this summer.
Members of the coalition didn’t respond to requests for comment.
A detailed look at the jurors in the criminal case against former Minnesota officer Jeronimo Yanez offers new insight into how the cop who fatally shot Philando Castile managed to get off scot-free.
A piece published by the Minnesota Star Tribune last Friday, the same day a jury found Yanez not guilty on the charge of manslaughter, revealed small, but significant, details about the 12 men and women selected to hear the case against the ex-cop. Even after viewing dashcam footage of the harrowing final moments of Castile’s life before he was riddled with seven bullets from the officer’s gun, jurors moved to acquit Yanez, sending shock waves across the nation.
The acquittal didn’t come as a surprise to many due to the U.S.’s dismal track record of prosecuting officers who shoot and kill Black Americans. The makeup of the jury board, then, provided further evidence that the odds were already stacked against Castile in his family’s quest for justice.
According to the Star Tribune, there were just two Black jurors on the panel. Juror One was described as a young African-American who “who works as a shift manager at Wendy’s and a personal care attendant for his mom.” Though he’s never had any run-ins with the police, the juror expressed some distrust with the justice system, saying “he believed the wealthy and powerful could get off in the legal system because they could hire better attorneys.”
Juror Eight was an 18-year-old Ethiopian woman who had immigrated to the U.S. when she was just 10 years old. The newspaper noted that the defense tried to remove her from the panel due to her unfamiliarity with the American justice system, but “the judge denied the attempt.”
The rest of the jury, however, was comprised of mostly middle-aged white Minnesotans who expressed outward support for law enforcement or an unwavering faithfulness in the justice system. For instance, Juror Two was characterized as an older white woman “who manages a White Bear Lake gas station that has a contract with police.” The judge in the case denied prosecutors’ request to strike her from the board despite the revelation of pro-police posts on her Facebook page, according to the newspaper.
“One of those posts was heavily critical of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during national anthems last year to protest police shootings,” the piece stated. “She said she had forgotten about the posts.”
Juror Three, a middle-aged white male whose wife worked for the same school district as Castile, outwardly admitted that it would be hard for him to be unbiased because he grew up around law enforcement and his nephew is a police officer. He was still cleared to sit on the panel. Juror Five expressed a “high regard for police” and noted that her husband was carjacked at gunpoint 18 years ago.
Juror Four was a gun owner who believed the criminal justice system is “a very fair process,” while Juror Eleven was “amiddle-aged white male who owns several shotguns and long rifles to hunt pheasants,” the Star Tribune reported.
The rest of the jury members held similar beliefs — beliefs that were blatantly slanted in favor of Yanez.
While the outcome of the case was cause for outrage, the composition of the jury was seemingly proof that the U.S. justice system is operating in the way it was designed to.
A vote to bring TopGolf to north Charlotte, N.C., has been delayed after protests erupted due to concerns the entertainment venue will be built on top of a slave burial site.
The rezoning vote to decide if Charlotte will see a second TopGolf, apartment complex and retail space built near Mallard Creek Presbyterian Church has been delayed until Monday, July 17, Channel 9 reported. Neighbors protested the development, which will follow the first TopGolf opening earlier this month since they believed slaves were buried at the location. A historian hired by development company Charter Properties confirmed the suspicion.
Dan Morrill, a Ph.D professor at the University North Carolina at Charlotte, told the news station he visited the lot Thursday, June 15, and said slaves were traditionally buried in the woods with white people in the church’s cemetery, with a wall separating them. The Mallard Creek burial site, which Morrill said had graves marked with rocks, follows that tradition.
The proposal for the development was protested during the City Council meeting Monday, June 19, where controversy erupted over a sign that read, “SOS Save Our Slaves,” which was held by someone who appeared to be white, according to The Charlotte Observer.
“I’m not quite sure if you know how offensive that might be to those of us down here who are African-American,” council member Al Austin, who is Black, told the sign-holder. “I get what you’re trying to say, but you’re the wrong person to have that sign up. Do you understand me? Sir, that is the wrong message to send. … I am quite offended.”
Charter Properties said Morrill is still studying the property and one of the developers, Matt Browder, said once the report is received, they’ll need to “define the boundaries of the cemetery so that it can be properly preserved and protected.”
“Regardless of any zoning decision, the graves will not be disturbed,” he said.
One of the church’s neighbors said he would be disappointed if the burial site was overlooked.
“If they ignore the fact that there are slaves buried outside the wall, our big response would be ‘Shame on you,’” Rankin said.
Two years after the death of Sandra Bland, a Black women arrested in Texas during a routine traffic stop who died days later in a county jail, the governor of that state signed into law legislation that would require law enforcement agencies to pay greater attention to mental health conditions.
Texas Gov. Gregg Abbot signed the “Sandra Bland Act” into law on Thursday, June 15.
The law, which takes effect Sept. 1, mandates that Texas county jails divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues to treatment and requires independent law enforcement agencies to investigate jail-related deaths, according to the Texas Tribune.
But it is what the bill does not contain — namely, strong language addressing racial profiling — that is perhaps most noteworthy.
The 28-year-old Illinois native was found hanged in her cell at the Waller County Jail just days after being pulled over for failing to use her turn signal in July 2015. She was arrested after getting into a heated argument with Department of Public Safety Trooper Brian Encinia, who was later fired.
Bland’s mysterious death in jail three days after the traffic stop was ruled a suicide. Her family, including her mother, Geneva Reed-Veal, questioned that conclusion, prompting them, with backing from activists, to push the state legislature to pass a bill focusing on reforms dealing with law enforcement operations.
A bill introduced by state Rep. Garnet Coleman, Democrat of Houston, and named in honor of Bland, originally addressed racial profiling during traffic stops, consent searches, counseling for police officers who profiled drivers and jail reforms, according to the Texas Tribune.
But the optimism of Bland’s family waned after some lawmakers, pushed by law enforcement groups, chipped away at the criminal justice reform legislation. A bill by state Sen. John Whitmire, also a Democrat from Houston, that was ultimately signed the governor primarily tackled mental health issues.
“To name just a few, the Sandra Bland Act will prevent traffic stops from escalating by ensuring that all law enforcement officers receive de-escalation training for all situations as part of their basic training and continuing education,” he said. “The Sandra Bland Act will also ensure that cell checks are properly done by providing funding for automated electronic sensors.”
Jackson Police Commander Tyree Jones said officers went to a home on Topp Avenue to do a welfare check. When they arrived on the scene, the found a 22-year-old man hanging from a tree in the backyard. His name has not been released.
Lori Shepherd is an African-American small-business owner in Oakland, Calif. Shepherd’s story is becoming an increasingly familiar one for urban Blacks.
“Due to Uber’s decision to move within two blocks of my shared office space, and the construction and limited parking, I’ve had to change up significantly how I work,” Shepherd said. “Instead of always working at my shared space, I have switched to working at a local Black-owned cafe. Unfortunately, last month, they were given an eviction notice from outside contractors, and now even that space is gone.
“The impact for me has been profound in terms of how I work and where.”
For decades, Oakland has been the fount of Black culture in the West. The founding hub of the Black Panther Party and the hometown of Celtics great Bill Russell, former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson and the Pointer Sisters, the once-majority-Black city has lost nearly 25 percent of its Black residents from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census. While this is, in part, due to the relaxing of previous barriers to integration in other areas and to class promotion within the Black community, this phenomenon can also be blamed on gentrification, or the intentional or unintentional pushing out of residents in a community through improvements to the infrastructure.
The sum of this is the slow decay of the urban African-American community as it is known today. “In terms of gentrification, this occurrence has been fierce with the vast loss of the African-American population, businesses and presence,” Shepherd added. “It is more than disheartening. To put this in perspective, imagine Atlanta losing 60 percent or more of its Black population to white newcomers who have no respect for the existing culture or Black presence.”
“For example, here in Oakland gentrification has been evidenced by white people who’ve moved next door to churches with a long history in the city. These churches have over 50 years of presence, only to find their new neighbors having the audacity to complain to City Council about noise, simply because of choir practice.
“The soul has shifted to hardly any soul at all.”
Gentrification and Black Businesses
In a 2014 speech, Spike Lee took aim at the rash of gentrification in New York, which has seemed to redefine Black communities wholesale. “[Why] did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed-Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!” Lee exclaimed.
“[You’re] talking about the people’s property change? But what about the people who are renting? They can’t afford it anymore! You can’t afford it. People want to live in Fort Greene. People wanna live in Clinton Hill. The Lower East Side, they move to Williamsburg, they can’t even afford f***in’, motherf***in’ Williamsburg now because of motherf***in’ hipsters.”
On 125th Street, for example, large white-owned “big box” stores are appearing where only a decade or two before, Black-owned “mom & pop” stores stood. For many, gentrification has razed the Harlem they knew and replaced it with one distinctly less Black.
Gentrification typically happens when infrastructure or material changes to a neighborhood reach a point that the neighborhood is now attractive to residents of a higher class than that of the residents of the neighborhood. This can happen in multiple ways. In the case of Harlem, which was the capital of Black America and the home of the Black Intelligentsia, it was tax abatement and a change of zoning laws that opened up the enclave to “urban pioneers,” young whites that chose to reject suburbia and return to the city.
As a population with more disposable income moves in, property owners respond by improving their properties in the neighborhood to attract the new tenants and by raising prices on leases and rent. This, in effect, causes a squeeze-out; the residents that already live in the neighborhoods cannot afford the rising rents, forcing them to leave homes they and their families have lived in for decades.
For traditional Black businesses, the effect of this can be twofold. First, many Black businesses in gentrified areas find their leases to be illegally broken or challenged by property owners desperate to cash in. Second, those that could somehow hold on to their leases now face a customer base radically different from what they previously had that may be at odds to the products being served, increased competition and a raise in price for key services.
“When Black-owned businesses decline, I’m alarmed. When local residents are priced out of their neighborhoods, I’m frustrated. We have to do better,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer told BuzzFeed News. “We need to focus on real, community-level wealth creation. When we talk about gentrification, we can’t just focus on rising rents or increased cost of living. We also need to ensure that local residents gain access to new, local jobs.”
In New York City, African-Americans are 22 percent of the population but only 3 percent of the local business owners. A reason for the decline may be the declining Black population in the city.
Syracuse and Gentrification Unchecked
Many of the traditional African-American neighborhoods that are now being gentrified or have been gentrified were, in reality, the result of aggressive racial policies and racially motivated migration patterns.
Syracuse sits in the geographic center of New York State. The city has been an important transportation hub for most of the nation’s history, with the Erie Canal being dug primarily to simplify the transferring of Syracuse salt to New York City and to the Mississippi River basin. This ready positioning made the city and its metropolitan area an industrial juggernaut in the earlier part of the 20th century and a higher-education leader in the later part, hosting more than 10 major universities and colleges within an hour’s drive of the city, including Colgate, Cornell and Syracuse universities.
Syracuse also has the distinction of being the American major city with the highest rate of extreme poverty concentrated among Blacks and Hispanics, per the Century Foundation and the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey. This concentrated poverty — the sense of being poor and growing up around other people that are poor — creates a sense of desolation: a lack of critical infrastructure such as supermarkets, more violence, declining graduation and college matriculation rates and less possibility of class promotion from generation to generation.
“Nationwide, the number of high-poverty neighborhoods and the population living in them has risen at an alarming pace. After declining by more than one-fourth, from 3,417 to 2,510 between 1990 and 2000, the number of high-poverty census tracts has risen steadily,” Paul Jargowsky wrote for the Century Foundation. “In the 2005–09 ACS data, before the financial crisis took hold, high-poverty census tracts increased by nearly one-third, to 3,310 — nearly matching the 1990 figure. By 2009–13, an additional 1,100 tracts had poverty rates of 40 percent or more, bringing the total to 4,412. The overall increase in high-poverty census tracts since 2000 was 76 percent.”
A key component to Syracuse’s plight is the lack of Black-owned businesses. Areas such as the Upper Valley, which are predominately Black, have seen a steep bleed off of nonwhite-owned businesses since 1969, when the city ranked 72nd in poverty among the nation’s largest cities.
Syracuse fell victim to gentrification run amok. In the city’s earliest years, it celebrated a growth rate that exceeded that of even New York City. However, various factors, including the discovery of salt in Louisiana and Utah, slowed growth until it was nearly stagnant by World War II. As Southern Blacks settled into the area around the 15th Ward, many of the city’s white residents headed for the suburbs. This gave the Black-populated areas the designation of “slum lands” to property developers, as it had a collapsing real estate value.
“Racial barriers have created an overcrowded condition that many experts felt may someday lead to troubles,” the Syracuse Post-Standard reported in 1954.
Exploiting this weakened view on the Black neighborhoods and hoping that taking definitive action could restart the growth rate and make Syracuse one of the largest cities in the nation, Syracuse destroyed the 15th Ward in 1956 and erected the I-81 Downtown Bridge, an elevated freeway that bisects downtown Syracuse and the Upper Valley. This destroyed the tightly held Black city community without much interference from the city’s leadership; the city was willing to do whatever state and federal officials asked to secure funding.
The sum effect was to push the Black population from the near downtown into the Southside, encouraging white flight. The very highway that was envisioned to bring residents into the city core would allow for residents to work in the city but live outside of it. The city’s population dropped from approximately 221,000 in 1950 to 144,000 as of 2014. Over the same timescale, the Black population increased tenfold.
Redlining, or the marking off of areas where African-Americans could not get home loans, made property ownership less of a possibility for Black residents, as did rental bans in specific neighborhoods. Worse, the white flight to the suburbs encouraged development around the city instead of in it. Despite the population of Onondaga County, where Syracuse is its county seat, not increasing since the 1970s, the county has seen 61 miles of new road development since 1961, 7,000 new housing units since 2000 and 12,500 acres added to the sanitary district.
A Population Displaced
While Syracuse is an example of reverse gentrification or the implementation of infrastructure improvements with the ultimate result of collapsing the social order, the impetus that led to Syracuse’s decision to willingly bisect its own communities exists in cities throughout the nation. Cities are motivated to increase their tax rolls, which will make it easier to pay for needed infrastructure repairs and social services. To do this, they must both increase their populations and bring in more affluent populations, which would drive commercial growth.
Gentrified growth tends to have adverse side effects, however. Many of the suburbs that popped up around Syracuse after the creation of the I-81/I-690 intersection developed anti-poor zoning policies. Skaneateles, one of the wealthier of the Syracuse suburbs, for example, allows no multifamily dwellings with more than four units per acre.
While the county has committed to expand county infrastructure no farther than where it already is and is participating with the city in bringing new employers into the core and promoting the Say Yes to Education program, which provides at least three years of free college tuition to Syracuse City District’s high school students, undoing the effects of gentrification may be difficult.
“The economic development in the 21st century in the world is centered in cities because of the concentration of intellectual energy that you have,” Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said to The Atlantic. “You can’t have a thriving suburb without having a thriving city.”
Not every city is like Syracuse, however. Typically, gentrification is a slower, less-dramatic event that happens resident by resident, property by property. In Portland, Ore., for example, the rising popularity of Portland among hipsters created a tide of rising housing prices and de facto redlining that drove the city’s Black community out of historical neighborhoods and toward the fringes and the suburbs. With an average rent increase of 20 percent, this decidedly unfussy artist enclave is steadily becoming available only to the wealthy. Even the early “urban pioneers” that started the gentrification craze in Portland have been priced out.
This stings all the more in light of Portland’s history of racial exclusion. “If Portland is trying to be this model of sustainable, livable, walkable, 20-minute cities and it’s not racially diverse and it’s not class diverse, we’ve got big problems about what that means for anywhere else,” Lisa Bates, a professor of urban planning at Portland State University, said to Colorlines. “Is it only viable to use public resources to create a favorable environment if you get rid of all the undesirable people?”
In Detroit, the gentrification of the city core has created strident arguments over if the push to make Detroit economically solvent is disenfranchising the poor. The purchase of neglected buildings in the city’s former Cass Corridor to turn into luxury apartments and high-end retailers created a situation where there is an affluent core in the city, but everything around that core is still facing racial and socioeconomic disparities. As noted by the Guardian, residents living just outside the core are making 25 percent less than those in the core, with more than 150,000 building vacant or abandoned.
A reality of modern-day life is that gentrification will happen. Young white professionals have rejected the notions of suburbanism and white flight and are returning to the cities in increasing numbers. It is now on city planners to find a way to make this work. The way forward is not to carve out new enclaves for the affluent in the cities or to allow displacement of the existing populace, but to find ways to promote heterogeneous communities and to encourage infrastructure improvements without raising property costs.
“Gentrification is not necessarily a bad thing, but the way in which it often occurs is, because it typically leads to displacement,” Derek Hyra, professor at American University and author of “Race, Class and Politics in Cappuccino City,’ said. “In America, we are really good at developing places instead of people in places. When investments come in to benefit areas of concentrated poverty where the people can stay in place, then the investments are a good thing. However, gentrification as a means to poverty displacement, instead of poverty relief, is destructive.”
Hyra pointed out that, even for those who are not economically displaced by gentrification, social and political displacement can still occur. As a community increasingly changes its populace, it changes its personality. What was once a vibrant Black community ceases to be in light of its Black residents and businesses being driven to other markets and other communities, only to become something else.
As many African-Americans were driven to these neighborhoods because of aggressive racial policies and economic disenfranchisement, being forced out of them now seems unnecessarily cruel. For those that are left due to subsidized housing or other means, what they are left with may be as alien and foreboding as being forced to live in a new neighborhood.
However, as many cities have yet to fully recover from the Great Recession and as the federal government plans major rollbacks to funding to minority business development, the goal of encouraging and protecting Black businesses in the inner city may be a difficult one to achieve.
“There is a gentrification wave that has taken over the nation as we come off the Great Recession, and for the first time, it is hitting Black neighborhoods,” Hyra added. “Usually, urban investment completely bypasses Black communities, but not this time. This will bring property values up. However, the question of how to safeguard the community’s identity must be considered. These neighborhoods were the safe havens of the Black community during times of strife and great violence.