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Seattle’s Segregation Story

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1 Seattle’s Segregation Story
Seattle has a long history of racial discrimination and segregation. Until the late 1960s, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans were shut out of most neighborhoods, schools, many occupations, and sometimes stores and restaurants. This slide show explores Seattle segregation in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. The map at right shows the residential segregation of African Americans in Seattle’s Central District in 1960.

2 Asian Americans lived in the International District, Central District, Beacon Hill or Rainier Valley in 1960

3 “Blighted by Restrictive Covenants”
Restrictive covenants were among the tools used by segregationists. Land developers, realtors, and neighborhood associations wrote racial restrictions into the property deeds. These provisions made it illegal to sell or rent property to African Americans, Asian Americans, and in some cases Jews. Binding on future as well as current property owners, the covenants were enforceable in court. That changed after 1948, but the covenants can still be found in the deeds to thousands of Seattle area homes. New World, a left-wing newspaper, denounced the restrictive covenants in 1948

4 Neighborhood restrictive covenants
Greenlake neighborhood: “No person or persons of Asiatic, African, or Negro blood, lineage or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property or any building thereon except a domestic servant or servants who may actually and in good faith be employed by white occupants of such premises” Laurelhurst neighborhood: “No person other than one of the White Race shall ever be permitted to occupy any portion of any lot in said plot or any building at any time thereon, except a domestic servant actually employed by a white occupant of such building” Broadmoor neighborhood:  “No part of said property hereby conveyed shall ever be used or occupied by any Hebrew or by any person of the Ethiopian, Malay, or Asiatic race …excepting only employees in domestic service…” Queen Ann neighborhood "No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property" Ballard/Sunset Hills neighborhood "No part of said property hereby conveyed shall ever be used or occupied by any Hebrew or by any person of the Ethiopian, Malay or any Asiatic Race." See: complete database of 210 racial restrictive covenants

5 Real Estate lockout After 1948, the courts stopped enforcing racial restrictive covenants, but segregationists used other means to keep neighborhoods white. Well into the 1950s, the Board of Realtors’ Code of Ethics mandated that real estate agents “should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood… members of any race or nationality, or any individual whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.” Walter Hubbard grew up in New Orleans, served in the Army during World War II, and moved to Seattle in A labor leader, he also co-founded the Catholic Interracial Council and served in the leadership of the Central Area Civil Rights Committee in the 1960s.

6 Still segregated in the late 1960s
Housing segregation remained almost as severe in the late 1960s as if had been in the decades of enforceable restrictive covenants..” Alan Sugiyama grew up in Seattle’s Central Area and became a leader of the Asian American youth movement in the late 1960s and 1970s.

7 Job lockout African Americans and Asian Americans were also excluded from most of the better paid and desirable jobs. Until World War II, even factory jobs were reserved for whites while most people of color were stuck in menial positions. Protests, court decisions, and state and federal laws gradually pried open job opportunities in the 1960s, but as that decade ended it was still rare to find African Americans in white collar and professional positions. While working for the Urban League in the late 1940s, Vivian Caver was encouraged to become one of the first African American saleswomen in a downtown Seattle department store. Caver much later worked in the Seattle Human Rights Department, serving as the department’s chair from 1978 to 1981.

8 Seattle Segregation vs. Southern Segregation
In most southern states, segregation of schools, buses, restaurants, and public facilities was required by law. That was not the case in Washington State. Indeed, it was technically illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, although the law was almost never enforced. Less total than the southern version, Seattle’s segregation practices nevertheless extended well beyond housing. They also affected not just Blacks but also Asian Americans. Coon Chicken Inn stood as beacon of bigotry on Lake City Way at 20th Ave NE until the 1950s. Patrons entered the restaurant through the mouth.

9 Jim Crow Stores Stores, restaurants, hotels, bars, beauty parlors, barber shops, even doctor’s offices sometimes refused to serve Black people or Chinese, Japanese, or Filipino Americans. The Civic Unity Committee, a civil rights organization founded in 1944, documented complaints and tried to convince businesses to open their doors to everyone. By the early 1950s, the efforts of the CUC and more forceful protests by other organizations had convinced most stores to put away the “whites only” signs. Pickets protest the racist practices of a Seattle grocery story in this 1947 demonstration organized by the Communist Party

10 Jim Crow Hospitals The letter below discloses the policies of various hospitals. In 1945, the Civic Unity Committee investigated complaints that local hospitals were refusing to treat African Americans and Asian Americans. Among those with Jim Crow exclusion policies: Swedish Hospital Providence Hospital Virginia Mason Hospital

11 Virginia Mason Virginia Mason Nursing School clarifies its policy in this 1946 letter to the Civic Unity Committee

12 Housing Terror Washington New Dealer , March 6, 1941 In 1941, four months after Carl Brooks and his family moved into a small home in north King County, race terrorists threw a dynamite bomb, shattering windows and endangering the lives of two sleeping children. The major newspapers ignored the incident, but the Washington New Dealer published this account.

13 Cross Burning in the University District
Marion and Ray West bought a small apartment building in the University District, intending to rent space to students of color. The couple, who were mixed race and active in the civil rights movement, spent the next seven years contending with harassment. One night, in 1958, they found a cross burning in the front yard. Seattle PI, June 15, 1958

14 Marion West remembers Students of color had been attending the University of Washington in small numbers since the late 1800s, but few were allowed to live near campus. The U District, like other neighborhoods north of the ship canal, was reserved for whites. In this oral history excerpt, Marion West describes the harassment that she and her husband endured and remembers the night that neighbors burned a cross in their front yard.

15 John L. Scott vs. Dr. J. R. Henry
In 1960, a physician and his wife bought a lot and built a house in the Uplands neighborhood near Seward Park. When neighbors learned that Dr. J.R. Henry was black, they organized to stop the family from moving in. The leader of the white neighborhood group was John L. Scott, the prominent realtor. Scott offered to “buy out” the Henrys. At right is the report filed with the Civic Unity Committee detailing what happened.

16 The Henrys move into the neighborhood
Rejecting “buy out” offers, the Henrys moved into the neighborhood in December John L. Scott delivered one final message, according to this report to the Civic Unity Committee.

17 Sundown Zones As late as the mid 1960s, Seattle police enforced informal “sundown” rules. In the evenings, after work, African Americans were not supposed to be in “white neighborhoods.” Black men in particular would be stopped and questioned. Anywhere north of the ship canal was considered a sundown zone, also Queen Anne, Magnolia, and West Seattle. Police in the suburbs on the eastside and north of Seattle were even more aggressive. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) monitored and publicized police harassment in 1964 and 1965.

18 Segregated Schools Unlike the South, Seattle’s schools were not segregated as a matter of law. Instead school segregation was a result of residential segregation. In 1966 there were nine “black schools” in the Central District and nearly 100 “white schools” in other parts of the city. That year civil rights groups organized a two-day boycott to protest school segregation. As many as 3,000 Central District children attended “Freedom Schools” in nearby churches and synagogues. Charles Johnson came to Seattle from Arkansas in 1954 to attend UW law school. From 1959 through the 1960s he led Seattle’s NAACP chapter, later serving as a judge first in Municipal Court then Superior Court.

19 Voting for segregation 1964
In 1964, civil rights activists proposed an open housing law that would have made racial discrimination illegal. By a margin of 2-1, Seattle voters rejected the measure. City councilman Wing Luke helped write the failed 1964 open housing measure. Above: marchers rally support before the March 10 election.

20 De-segregating Seattle
In 1968, the federal government passed a law banning housing discrimination. Under pressure, the city council passed a similar Fair Housing ordinance. Changes occurred slowly. It was not until 1980 that desegregation began to be evident in North Seattle, West Seattle, and Queen Anne. Nonwhite Percentage of each neighborhood Neighborhood 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 Broadview-Carkeek 0.6% 1.5% 6.5% 14.1% 22.7% Lake City-Haller Lake 2.5% 9.7% 18.8% 27.6% Ballard 0.4% 2.1% 7.0% 9.3% 12.4% Greenlake 1.1% 3.9% 8.7% 11.3% 14.6% University-Ravenna 1.7% 4.2% 12.1% 16.5% 20.1% Magnolia 1.9% 3.2% 7.6% 10.8% 14.4% Queen Anne 1.0% 3.4% 8.5% 12.3% Capitol Hill-Madison 5.0% 9.6% 11.4% 11.1% 12.6% Downtown 15.7% 18.2% 27.3% 32.7% 36.9% Garfield-Madrona 46.8% 52.0% 49.5% 45.5% 40.8% Alki-Admiral 0.8% 2.0% 7.9% 9.9% 15.2% Beacon Hill-Rainier Valley 15.1% 36.0% 58.4% 67.2% 69.1% Fauntleroy-Highland Park 0.3% 5.9% 15.0% 26.2% 37.3% Rainier Beach 23.5% 54.5% 69.3% 78.9% Table from Kate Davis, “Housing Segregation in Seattle”

21 African American Residential Distributions
1960 1980 2000 Maps courtesy of Social Explorer <>

22 Asian American and Native American residential distributions
1960 1980 2000 Maps courtesy of Social Explorer <>

23 Credits Special thanks to the Museum of History and Industry for permission to reproduce the photos of Wing Luke, Coon Chicken Inn, Open Housing march, Atlas grocery pickets. To Manuscripts and Archives, University of Washington library for documents form the Civic Unity Committee collection To Social Explorer for the residential maps To Kate Davis “Housing Segregation in Seattle” (MA Thesis, University of Washington, 2005) for the residential data.

24 Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project
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