August 21, 2022 5:38 PM   Subscribe

Unvarnished This digital history project reveals a comprehensive history of housing discrimination and segregation across the US' North and West. Complicating the notion that most racist policies existed only in the Jim Crow south, Unvarnished includes a national narrative on how racist policies and practices created a segregated nation, along with six "local spotlight" stories for Appleton, WI; West Hartford, CT; Brea, CA; Naperville, IL; Oak Park, IL; and Columbus, OH. [via mefi projects]

From the last section of end page of the project, what kind of place will you call home?
Every community has a story about housing and race. Many communities hid or overlooked this history for a long time. We hope the Unvarnished project will inspire further research into local community histories across the United States. How did these national movements for and against housing segregation play out locally? After you have explored the national story and six community spotlights of this project, we invite you to dig deep into your own community’s history. How does your community compare? How did the systems of laws, customs, beliefs, and threats influence your hometown? What community movements and legal fights paved the way for people who live in your city or town today?

And once you have learned the history, think about the days to come. What is your vision for fair housing in America? What can you do today to work toward it? How could your own city or town reduce segregation and increase access to safe, good-quality housing? What kind of community do you want to live in? By bringing your knowledge of the past to your own local activities, you have the power to envision new futures.

We end in the same place we started: What do you know about the place you call home?
posted by aniola (7 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I just like to remind people that the reason Vancouver, WA exists is because Portland, OR was a sundowner city, but they needed someplace for all their servants to live. So, with the river inbetween, Whitey felt safe!
posted by hippybear at 5:46 PM on August 21 [6 favorites]

Well, and there was Vanport.
posted by aniola at 6:35 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]

Vanport was actually integrated, the schools at least (housing and hospitals were still segregated).

Meanwhile, not only Portland, but basically all of Oregon was racist from the start, from before statehood. Officially antiblack by statute from 1844 to 1926, hatred and harassment of other minorities ad-hoc.
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:09 PM on August 21

I read the piece on Brea. It would have been nice if they had explained how it had ended up being fairly diverse despite its exclusionist history. I assume it's just the story of most LA/OC suburbs given the changing demographics of the region as a whole, but they could have spelled that out more.
posted by plonkee at 2:15 AM on August 22

hippybear, a friend of mine lived in Vancouver and she told me the local slang name for Lake Oswego which I will not repeat here. She didn't have a particularly good experience in the region stating that she had to deal with antisemitism as well as casual racism.
posted by drstrangelove at 7:36 AM on August 22

Shit, in Illinois -the Land of Lincoln- I grew up in a segregated, basically sundowner town in the 1980s. That all changed in the 90s thankfully, but this isn't the distant past we're talking about.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 10:20 AM on August 22

As a California native who then lived in Louisiana for a decade-plus... yeah. I cannot tell you how maddening it was, especially during the Trump years, watching CA friends posting those smug little memes about seceding and how backward and racist the South is, while living somewhere so much less diverse than the South. (FYI the most diverse city in America is Houston! Anthony Bourdain did an incredible episode about it.) I mean, I'm white so that biases my experience, but I saw much more integration and interaction, and just social ease (like, people talking to each other at the bus stop, people chatting at bars) between white and Black people in New Orleans than I ever did anywhere in California. If anything there's more segregation in the liberal parts of the country; it's just accomplished economically, instead of through physical violence. I mean, look at the mass displacement of Black folks out of Oakland, CA in the last 20 years or so.
posted by Nibbly Fang at 2:26 PM on August 22 [5 favorites]

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