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The phenomenon of segregation has a strong connection with the American history. In chapter four “Segregation by Collusion” of his book Not in My Neighborhood, Antero Pietila uses the history of Baltimore to demonstrate how African Americans fought for their rights. The beginning of the twentieth century was marked by a great number of African Americans moving across the country. However, not abolition of slavery, but rather reduction of a number of European immigrants defined this movement. Industrialists from the North required new cheap labor force and found it in the Black community. In addition, poor living conditions forced African Americans to search for a better life. Facing a previously unseen flow of Black immigrants and an increasing number of their neighborhoods, white homeowners used covenants as a response. This type of agreement was aimed at excluding a certain community from the neighborhood. While covenants were applied against different races, they became an extremely popular measure against African Americans. Pietila outlines that these agreements effectively promoted racial segregation even despite the repeal of residential segregation laws. Moreover, covenants found wide legal support throughout the country and courts considered racial prohibitions proposed by covenants to be absolutely justified. While such politics caused violent protests of the Black community in some cities, it was adopted without any struggle in Baltimore. At the same time, white lawyers and homeowners were not the only ones who made significant steps towards exclusion of African Americans. James Preston, the mayor of Baltimore between 1911 and 1919, was the first who gave racial segregation governmental support. Considering a rapid expansion of Black communities in Baltimore, he acquired lands of the courthouse neighborhood, evicting all Blacks and demolishing their property. While Preston used an outdated law to justify his activity, his plan did not face any opposition because African Americans had no rights for owning real estate. After implementation of the Preston’s project, segregation became commonplace in the real estate business. From this point, the city space was divided without any legal agreements and the zoning theory became extremely popular. Segregation and zoning became interconnected. The next mayor of Baltimore, Howard Jackson, decided to create a special committee that would divide the city space between African Americans and whites. However, this committee turned out to be absolutely ineffective because the idea of land distribution met fierce resistance from white homeowners. At the same time, having no access to new neighborhoods, African American immigrants continued to increase the population of the existing ones. Such state of affairs resulted in extremely high rates of sickness and mortality in these communities. The situation in Jewish neighborhoods was much better because Jews had a certain influence on Baltimore’s real estate market. These neighborhoods became transitional zones where representatives of both races were presented. Pietila outlines that while the overall population of these areas remained constant, the number of whites significantly decreased, while the number of blacks grew. However, suburbs inhabited by middle-class whites remained closed to African Americans even despite changes in the racial climate in Jewish neighborhoods. An example of Morgan College perfectly illustrates all the hardships of segregation experienced by African Americans. Designed as a college for African Americans, it was built in the heart of the white district. Deciding to change its location and finding necessary funds, the college administration faced opposition of wealthy whites living nearby. Overcoming a strong public dissatisfaction, Morgan College could eventually find a new location outside the city only with the help of the court decision. However, it was a single case and the majority of African Americans had no freedom to choose a place of living. More information you can find here
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