Chat with us, powered by LiveChat The Color of Law What is de jure? What is de facto? For whom was public housing originally created? Speak about the current use of public housing in terms of de jur | WriteDen

The Color of Law What is de jure? What is de facto? For whom was public housing originally created? Speak about the current use of public housing in terms of de jur


The Color of Law

  1. What is de jure? What is de facto?
  2. For whom was public housing originally created?
  3. Speak about the current use of public housing in terms of de jure segregation vs de facto segregation.
  4. After WWII, what impact did the real estate industry (lobby) have on public housing? How has that impact affected the reputation of public housing and the demographics of its residents?
  5. Give at least three examples of instances in which the government racially segregated cities/communities that were not racially segregated prior to public housing being built.

Space Over Time

  1. How does Marcuse (1998) describe the difference between a ghetto and an enclave? Between segregation and congregation?
  2. Do you agree? Give examples of areas that might be categorized this way.
  3. Peter Marcuse (1998) describes clustering in two ways. What are they? How are they distinct?
  4. From your personal experience, do his categorization and description ring true?

SPACE OVER TIME: THE CHANGING POSITION OF THE BLACK GHETTO IN THE UNITED STATES Author(s): Peter Marcuse Source: Netherlands Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, Vol. 13, No. 1, Spatial segregation, concentration, and ghetto formation (1998), pp. 7-23 Published by: Springer Stable URL: Accessed: 14-10-2016 14:03 UTC

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Peter Marcuse

ABSTRACT Ghettoizcition is increasingly of concern in countries around the world. The manifestation that causes the concern is known primarily from the United States. But it is not a simple phenomenon there, and has gone through many changes over the past several centuries. The article describes the ghetto of several historical periods: in the aftermath of slavery, during a period of acceptance between the two World Wars, in pursuit of integration after World War II, and as today 's quite dif- ferent outcast ghetto, a ghetto of exclusion, in a period during which for the first time it is perceived as a permanent component of urban society. Whether the nega- tive results of these developments can be overcome remains a contested question.

1 Introduction

Concern about ghettos, about the segregation of minority groups, is heard almost everywhere around the world today. Whether it be of blacks in the United States, Turks in Germany, Algerians in France, Muslims in Serbia, Palestinians in Israel, Pakistanis in Birmingham, the worry is that the apparently increasing clustering of individuals of one ethnic or religious or cultural background within a limited area within a city (or a nation) can give rise to a multitude of problems, both to those living within such clusters and to those in the society outside. Yet all clustering is not alike (see also Bolt, Burgers and Van Kempen in this Issue). Clustering may be voluntary, and represent affinity and solidarity, or it may be involuntary, the result of segregation and discrimination. It may be transitional, or it may be permanent, of a group on the way up and out, or a group held down and oppressed. The issues are complex. And what makes the matter even more complicated is that the same clustering, the same concentration of individuals and households, may change its character over time: what had been perceived as transitional may harden into per- manence, a separation originally productive of mutual support and cultural enrich- ment may turn into a ghetto burdensome to all who are forced to live in it.

The black ghetto in the United States is perhaps the best-known symbol of

Neth. J. of Housing and the Built Environment, Vol. 13 (1998) No. 1.


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segregation and its undesirable consequences in the world today. Yet it was not always so. Today's ghetto is not yesterday's ghetto, nor that of the day before. Spaces change over time; both dimensions are necessary to understand sociospatial relationships. The pattern of racial separation in the United States may hold some lessons for other countries also, in which what is today seen as a benign congregati- on of households wishing to stay in proximity for mutual support is in danger of becoming a segregated and oppressed community involuntarily kept out of a main- stream they would rather join, at least for economic and political if not for cultural reasons. While the ghetto in the United States was never benign, its character has changed dramatically over the years, and what was once often seen as a source of strength and cultural richness has changed in the perception both of its residents and outside observers, and I believe dramatically so in the last fifty years.

In this paper I want to give an historical overview of the black ghetto in the United States. I want to demonstrate that the development and changing definitions of the black ghetto must be seen in the context of black residential patterns in the United States and the ways these patterns have been perceived. It will hopefully be- come clear that the black ghetto does not exist: it is defined differently in different periods and circumstances.

Using the word 'black' here, and not 'African- American', needs some explana- tion. 'African- American' emphasizes a positive ethnic identity linked to a country or continent of origin, and thus establishes a basis for identity and a claim for equality of treatment that has strong positive value. For that purpose, 'African- American' suggests a similarity with Korean-American or Italian-American that is for our purpose misleading. Blacks are not immigrants, and their position is markedly different from that of many other 'minority' groups. I thus follow Herbert Gans' logic:

"… African- American … is a term that seems to me to emphasize an ethnic heritage, and thus to de-emphasize, if not intentionally, the racial issues inherent in the term black" (Gans, 1991: x).

The terms used in this paper have the following meanings here. A ghetto is a spatially concentrated area used to separate and to limit a particular population group, externally defined as racial or ethnic, held to be, and treated as, inferior by the dominant society. An enclave is defined as a spatially concentrated area in which members of a particular population group, self-defined by ethnicity or religion or otherwise, congregate as a means of enhancing their economic, social, political and/or cultural development. An area of spatial concentration is the generic term covering any concentration of members of a particular group, however defined, in space, at a scale larger than a building. Clustering is the generic term for the formation of any area of spatial concentration; segregation is the process of formati- on of a ghetto; congregation is the process of formation of an enclave.

There have been four phases in the development of black urban residential patterns in the United States:


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1. The aftermath of slavery: before 1917, prior to a large-scale black urban presence;

2. The period of acceptance: between the two World Wars, during which areas of concentration of blacks were seen2 as comparable to areas of immigrant concentration, accepted as such and generally considered both inevitable and with many positives;

3. The period of integrationism: between World War II and the War on Poverty, during which the opportunity for dispersion of the ghetto was seen as essential for progress, whether or not black enclaves would also exist thereafter;

4. The period of perceived permanence, after 1970 or so, in which the black ghetto was increasingly seen as undesirable but permanent, attention focused on its development, and integration was seen as of dubious benefit per se but in any event largely unattainable. The newer discussion of the ' hyper-ghetto' is the present more extreme manifestation of this period.

These phases provide the structure of the rest of the paper.

2 The aftermath of slavery

In the years after slavery, the black population of the United States lived predomi- nantly in the South and on farms; even in 1910, 89 percent of the black population was Southern and 73 percent of that was rural (Hauser, 1971: 440/441). The urban pattern varied significantly between North and South. In general, in the South in the urban centers blacks often lived in close proximity to whites, although in much inferior housing, and under conditions of semi-servitude; thus servants lived in inferior housing adjacent to the homes of their employers. In the North, small areas of concentration developed, e.g., at the site of the future Pennsylvania Station and in parts of Brooklyn in New York City, often where freedmen had settled before the Civil War, and sections of the shantytowns in what was to become Central Park were black-occupied. Black movement out of such areas met major obstacles, including legal restrictions in much of the South, but the problem was generally seen as one of restriction of movement rather than of ghetto formation. Blacks simply wanted better housing than was available in the areas to which they were confined, and a particular relationship to such areas was not perceived as important, negatively or positively.

Interestingly enough, one might argue that in the United States the ghetto did not arise until the claim by the former slaves to full 'common citizenship' had become a nation-wide phenomenon. As Gunnar Myrdal pointed out in his landmark study, the patterns of segregation were quite different in the ante-bellum South than in the post- civil-war North.

"Southern whites do not want Negroes to be completely isolated from them: they derive many advantages from their proximity … there is also segregation, but


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the segregation is based on what we may term 'ceremonial' distance rather than spatial distance" (Myrdal, 1944: 621; see also the historical sections in Silver and Moeser, 1995).

What Myrdal calls the 'racial etiquette' of the South, understood by both blacks and whites, was sufficient to maintain the relationships of subordination and domination. When that breaks down, when the claim to equal treatment, equal access, equal rights, becomes prevalent among blacks, the necessity for ghettoization in its classic forms arises. Richard Morrill, for instance, argues that,

"During the nineteenth century the American Negro population, in this country from the beginning but accustomed to servitude, remained predominantly south- ern and rural, and those who did move lived in small spatial concentrations about the cities. The Negro ghetto did not exist. Even in southern cities the Negroes, largely in the service of whites, lived side by side with the white majority. Rather suddenly, with the social upheaval and employment opportun- ities of World War II, Negro discontent grew, and large-scale migration began from the rural south to the urban north …" (Morrill, cited in: Abrams, 1955: 19; see also Piven and Cloward, 1974).

A detailed study of Cincinnati between 1870 and 1880 bears out this picture: the lower the economic level, the greater the integration, although on a building by building basis three-fourths of all blacks lived in all-black buildings (Lammermeier, 1971). The pattern is more one of congregating than of segregation.

The year 1917 is suggested as the symbolic break-point between this period and the next as it marks the decision of the Supreme Court which declared specific municipal zoning ordinances enforcing racial discrimination in housing illegal (Buchanan vs. Warley, 1917). From then on the de jure claim to freedom from racial segregation, its de facto implementation, in the development began to accompany racial patterns in the urban centers of the United States.

3 The period of acceptance

Between the two World Wars, and perhaps briefly thereafter, areas of concentration of blacks shared some of the attributes of a ghetto and some of an enclave. The clustering of blacks drew attention; already in 1913 Haynes, a Fisk University sociologist, wrote:

"New York has its 'San Juan Hill' in the West Sixties and its Harlem district of

over 35,000 within about eighteen city blocks; Philadelphia has its Seventh Ward; Chicago has its State Street; Washington its Northwest neighborhood, and Baltimore its Druid Hill Avenue" (Haynes, 1913, cited in Bracey et al. 1971: 2).


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But the formation of the major areas of spatial concentration of blacks in central cities began only after World War I (Haynes, op. cit.). This was a period of rapid migration of blacks (a) from the South to the North; (b) in the North to their metropolitan areas; and (c) in those areas to their central cities. The positive side of clustering was as often adumbrated as the negative; the process was one of congre- gating as well as of being segregated. The attitude towards Harlem of the writers of the Harlem Renaissance, the elation Malcolm X describes on his first arrival there, the proud characterization of Harlem as the capital of black America, all suggest a strong positive association with it. There is a positive description of Harlem in, say, the biographies of Adam Clayton Powell.3 In Chicago:

"… the black ghetto … was still a functioning community as late as 1966. Blacks still provided most of the community services, they still owned the small shops and businesses, and black professionals still provided help to black citizens. There was a vertical integration …" (Wood, 1992: 3).

And in general:

"… the ghettos contained the well-to-do as well as the poor. The middle and upper classes resided in well-defined sections of the ghettos- such as Striver's Row or Sugar Hill in Harlem" (Bracey et al., 1971: 3).

Negative characteristics of the ghetto are also, of course, recognized: run-down housing, overcrowding, inadequate sanitary facilities, dilapidation. But these were seen as attributes of slum housing, not confined to black areas, and the solutions were general ones addressed to such housing. Where later 'urban renewal' becomes synonymous with 'black removal', this was not the case before World War II; when slums were cleared on the Lower East Side or in Brooklyn to make way for public housing in New York City in the 1930s, the issue of racial displacement did not even come up.

In general, the objections to the black ghetto in the period of acceptance were with conditions within that ghetto, not to the existence of an area of spatial concentration for blacks as such. The analogy to immigrant enclaves was widespread, and the inadequate housing conditions were not confined to the ghetto. Particularly during the Depression, slums existed throughout the city, and blacks in the ghetto had no reason to feel uniquely confined in such conditions.

In the pioneering urban studies of the 1920s, that of the Chicago School, segregation is equated to clustering, with no emphasis on whether voluntary or not, and little distinction between immigrant, cultural, black, or other areas of spatial concen- tration. It is interesting to look at some formulations in Park, Burgess, and McKenzie' s leading study:


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"In the city environment the neighborhood tends to lose much of the significance which it possessed in simpler and more primitive forms of society … On the other hand, the isolation of the immigrant and racial colonies of the so-called ghettos and areas of population segregation tend to preserve and, where there is racial prejudice, to intensify the intimacies and solidarity of the local and neighborhood groups. Where individuals of the same race or of the same vocation live together in segregated groups, neighborhood sentiment tends to fuse together with racial antagonisms and class interests …" (Park et al., 1967 [1925]: 10).

"The slums are also crowded to overflowing with immigrant colonies- the Ghetto, Little Sicily, Greektown, Chinatown- fascinatingly combining old world heritages and American adaptations. Wedging out from here is the Black Belt, with its free and disorderly life …" (op. cit., p. 56).

"Chicago, like other large cities, has its cultural communities, each of which has, if not a local area, at least a local center. Hobohemia, Bohemia, Philistia, the Ghetto, and the Gold Coast are cultural communities" (op. cit., p. 150).

The confusion in these passages does not stem simply from a reading seventy years later under other conditions. The ' so-called ghetto' in the first passage seems to incorporate all areas of concentration, yet 'the Ghetto' is capitalized, first parallel to other ethnic areas, the second time parallel to other cultural communities, with class weaving in and out, and the Black Belt seeming not part of the ghetto. Park and his colleagues clearly did not think it necessary to conceptualize the ghetto further.

Louis Wirth (1927) provides the earliest full discussion of the ghetto in the sociolo- gical literature in the United States. The 'ghetto' is described in almost glowing terms:

"The ghetto … indicates the ways in which cultural groups give expression to their own heritage when transplanted to a strange habitat; it evidences … the forces through which the community maintains its integrity and continuity … the spatially separated and socially isolated community seemed to offer the best opportunity for following their religious precepts, their established ritual and diet, and the numerous functions which tied the individual to familial and communal institutions . . . The ghetto . . . was a self-perpetuating group to such an extent that it may be properly called a closed community … it is … a cultural community [and] can be completely understood only if it is viewed as a socio- psychological, as well as an ecological phenomenon: for it is not merely a physical fact, but also a state of mind" (Wirth, 1927: 18).

Wirth had in mind the immigrant concentrations of cities like Chicago, and in this sense was talking more of what we are calling an enclave than a ghetto. But that very fact is noteworthy. By the time he was writing, Harlem had already achieved


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international recognition as a- the- center of black life, and the South Side of Chicago was clearly Negro. "By the outbreak of World War I, the larger centers of Negro population in the North had established segregated community facilities of various types … Black Belts had appeared" (Weaver, 1948: 3). Yet Wirth did not deem it necessary to pay attention to the differences between the classic immigrant enclaves he describes and the black ghettos of these cities.

In mainstream white discussions of segregation along these lines, this comparability of black conditions with those of immigrants appears throughout. And thus, when Lewis Mumford crusades for diversity in urban life with the same orientation, he is railing against the homogeneity and monotony of the suburbs: "… a sort of green ghetto dedicated to the elite." The city, on the other hand,

"… by its nature is a multi-form non-segregated environment. Little groups may indeed form social islands within a city … as people from Greek or a Polish village might form temporary nests together in the same block in Chicago or New York. But the metropolis was a mixture of people who came from different places, … meeting and mingling, co-operating and clashing, the rich with the poor, the proud with the humble" (Mumford, 1961: 493).

4 The period of integrationism

But the generalized acknowledgment of slums, the wide-spread and largely non- racially-identified existence of poverty, did not continue after World War II. The war-time experience stimulated claims to a better life, not just equality in a poorer one. Besides, the numbers had changed dramatically: between 1940 and 1960, the black population of central cities in the large metropolitan areas increased by 4,230,000 (Hauser, 1971). A turning-point may be taken as the formal abandonment by the Federal Housing Administration of its policy of racial red-lining in 1949, or the decision in Shelley vs. Kramer in 1948 holding racial restrictive covenants unenforceable as a matter of public policy. By 1959 George A. Nesbitt, writing in the official journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, wrote:

"… few indeed are the Negroes who would answer the question ['break up the black ghetto?'] other than with a resounding affirmative" (Nesbitt, 1959: 50).

Going on to discuss the vested interests that had a stake in the preservation of the ghetto for business reasons, Nesbitt concluded:

"Negroes ought to help usher out the black ghettos in which they suffer and not be beguiled by the few who wax fat on its drippings" (op. cit. p. 52).


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The sense of being artificially separated spatially from that of which they are a part economically and socially, can be seen in Robert Weaver's definition, given at what was perhaps the last moment that full integration of blacks into United States society seemed a practical goal, immediately after the end of the World War II:

"The modern American ghetto is … not, as the ghetto of old, an area which houses a people concerned with perpetuation of a peculiar (and different) culture. It is no longer composed of black people almost all of whom are too poor to afford decent shelter. The Negro ghetto of today is made up of people who are American to the core, who are a part of the national culture and who share a common language with the majority of Americans … Its inhabitants are better prepared and more anxious than ever before to enter the main stream of American Life. Residential segregation, more than any other single institution, is an impediment to their realization of this American Dream" (Weaver, 1948: 7).

Weaver thus implicitly argues that two of the three reasons that Myrdal (1944: 619) gave for the existence of black ghettos — poverty, ethnic attachment, and enforced segregation ~ no longer existed: its only reason for continued existence, after the Second World War, was purely involuntary: enforced segregation.

Positive aspects could still be attributed to the ghetto, but as responses to an undesirable and hopefully dwindling reality: the racism of white society. Thus Drake and Cayton (1945) present the ghetto as a place where black people can "escape from the tensions of contact with white people," a tension that is itself the subject of attack and is hoped will disappear. Even Kenneth Clark, in his later and much more pessimistic view of the ghetto, says that "there is considerable psychological safety in the 'ghetto;' there one lives among one's own and does not risk rejection among strangers." (Clark, 1965). That is not presented as any reason to preserve the ghetto, however; its dissolution remains the objective (see also Drake and Cayton, 1945). The tradition is that of the original Park and Burgess (1925) discussion, in which all ethnic groups in American cities were seen as passing through a series of stages from contact and competition to conflict to assimilation as the ultimate (and positive- ly valued) end result, all as part of a natural and 'organic' development process.

This two-sided approach to the ghetto – resistance to confinement within it, yet not questioning its positive attributes and even expecting its continuation as a cultural phenomenon – also exists in the writing of such perceptive critics as Jane Jacobs, which foreshadows the pessimistic view that is to come:

"The effective breaking down of residential discrimination outside a slum, and the less dramatic self-diversification within an unslumming slum, proceed con- currently. If America has now, in the case of Negroes, reached an effective halt in this process and in general entered a stage of arrested development- a thought I find both highly improbable and quite intolerable then it may be that Negro


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slums cannot effectively unslum in the fashion demonstrated by slums formed by other ethnic populations …" (Jacobs, 1961: 284).

'Unslumming' the ghetto is not destroying it; it is not the spatial concentration of blacks in itself that is the problem, but the conditions under which it occurs. The ghetto still has enclave-like properties. But the sense that the continred and unwan- ted existence of the ghetto may be both possible and ominous is already there.

Kenneth Clark's description of the ghetto seventeen years after Weaver's presents a more somber picture:

"The dark ghetto's invisible walls have been erected by the white society, by those who have power, both to confine those who have no power and to perpetu- ate their powerlessness. The dark ghettos are social, political, educational, and-above all-economic colonies. Their inhabitants are subject peoples, victims of the greed, cruelty, insensitivity, guilt, and fear of their masters" (Clark, 1965: 11).

Clark wrote of the ghetto presciently, just at the point when its character was beginning to change. Powerlessness was no part of the feeling of Weaver's ghet- to-and certainly not of the Harlem of the period of acceptance, Harlem the capital of black America in the 1920s (see: Johnson, 1925 and Osofsky, 1968). It became characteristic of pictures of the ghetto by the late 1960s, but still in an integrationist context. Clark had after all given key support for the plaintiffs in the school desegregation cases that outlawed leave in segregation in public schools ten years earlier, in 1955. The colonies are linked to the colonizers, the masters have an interest in, profit from, the work of the subject peoples.

It is that which has changed in the post-Fordist city. Those in today's black ghettos are not productive for their masters; their masters get no benefit from their existen- ce. Their residents are outcasts; as far as the dominant society is concerned, they are only a drain on public and private resources, a threat to social peace, fulfilling no useful social role. They are outcasts; hence an outcast ghetto. That is the characteris- tic of the ghetto in the period of perceived permanence which is to follow.

The crucial political turning point in the United States is probably what with hindsight might be considered the defeat of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and the election of Nixon as President. Two parallel quotations neatly illustrate the point (both are cited in the revised text of Banfield, 1974: 2):4

President Johnson, August 1965, immediately after the Watts riots in Los Angeles:

"… the clock is ticking, time is moving … we must ask ourselves every night when we go home, are we doing all that we should do in our nation's capital, in all the other big cities of the country."


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Compare this to President Nixon, March 1973:

"A few years ago we constantly heard that urban America was on the brink of collapse. It was one minute to midnight, we were told … Today, America is no longer coming apart … The hour of crisis is passed."

A whole coterie of ultimately conservative commentators supported this position, and gave ideological cover to the rejection of integration as a goal of public policy (see, e.g., Moynihan, 1965 and Lowry, 1987).

5 The period of perceived permanence

So things changed as the War on Poverty ran out and the major changes in the economy that are often characterized as post-Fordist or stemming from an age of globalization developed.

Little of the recent writing on the subject has focused on the qualitative change that the ghetto in the United States has undergone in the transition from the Fordist to the post-Fordist city. In two of the best recent books, the focus is more on the persisten- ce and intensity of segregation and ghettoization than on changes in its character (Massey and Dentón, 1993; Goldsmith and Blakely, 1992; but see Vergara (1995) for a graphic description that focuses on the contemporary ghetto). Most see the ghetto in the United States as strictly a phenomenon of African- American residence:

"… no ethnic or racial group in the history of the United States, except one, has ever experienced ghettoization, even briefly. For urban blacks, the ghetto has been the paradigmatic residential configuration for at least eighty years" (Massey and Denton, 1993: 18-19).

Others link the ghetto with the Latino barrio (see Goldsmith and Blakely, 1992); but that there have been recent changes in the relative role of African-American and other spatial concentrations of ethnic/racial groups is little explored.

Adding the prefix 'hyper' to the ghetto does suggest that something new is happe- ning: "hypersegregation" might be thought of as referring to a new stage in the development of the United States ghetto. But that is not how it has generally been used. It has rather come into use to differentiate, in purely quantitative terms, areas of extreme differentiation on one or more scales from areas of lesser differentiation

(see Massey and Denton, 1993: 74; Massey and Denton, 1989; see also Jencks and Petersen, 1991). The worsening patterns that Massey and Denton demonstrate and discuss do however lend credence to the belief, which also comes through in their careful study, that something new is happening.


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William Julius Wilson (1987) has focused attention on changes in the character of the ghetto in about the 1970s, and in a detailed but somewhat neglected portion of his major study pointed to their deeper causes in the economic changes of the middle of the post-war period. The debates he generated however focused more on short- term issues, and here Wilson laid stress on the out-migration of middle-class blacks from older areas of racial concentration in the 1970s as a result of the fair housing


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