Seattle's Central District, 1990-2006: Integration or Displacement

Urban Lawyer, Vol. 39, p. 2, Spring 2007

90 Pages Posted: 2 May 2007

See all articles by Henry W. McGee

Henry W. McGee

Seattle University School of Law

Abstract

This paper explores the continued process of displacement of African Americans from a community in which they were once captive, to their dispersal throughout the southeast sections of the City, the so-called Rainier Valley, and to the inner suburbs of Renton and Kent, once working and middle class communities in which African Americans could not safely walk after dark.

The disruption, displacement and transformation of the Central Area and its African American residents is not unlike the story of many American cities. Traditionally the most marginalized of all of the nations marginalized, more and more African Americans are moving out of the urban cores, and into the inner suburbs. Harlem in New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even southern cities such as Atlanta, to name but a few, have all seen once-shunned Negro areas become populated by the children of the white-flyers, who themselves crave the proximity, the convenience and the hipness of living close to downtowns where they work and play. Ironically, this process actually commenced around the time of the Civil Rights Movement, or as the Movement began to wound down, and has since become stable in the reality of 21st Century urban America.

As for the Northwest, a recent news article reported that only Portland, Oregon, was whiter than Seattle, which it called the second whitest city in the United States. The article observed that an invasion of young, well-educated and mostly white newcomers is buying up and remaking Seattle's Central District. What had been the largest black-majority community in the Pacific Northwest has become majority white. However, unlike the cities in which African Americans are in significant numbers, Seattle and Washington State have, by any measure, relatively small minority populations. Nevertheless, Seattle presents gentrification and its issues in microcosmic dimension, in a city far less polarized racially than larger metropolitan areas east of the Mississippi river, or elsewhere in the United States. As we note elsewhere, the significantly smaller number of African Americans also suggests that the possibility of an ultimately integrated neighborhood is much greater than the typical case where segregated areas are far less polarized racially than larger metropolitan areas east of the Mississippi river, or elsewhere in the United States. As we note elsewhere, the significantly smaller number of African Americans also suggests that the possibility of an ultimately integrated neighborhood is much greater than the typical case.

Keywords: Land Use, Housing, Race Relations

JEL Classification: A10, A12, D1

Suggested Citation

McGee, Henry W., Seattle's Central District, 1990-2006: Integration or Displacement. Urban Lawyer, Vol. 39, p. 2, Spring 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=970310

Henry W. McGee (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue
Seattle, WA n/a 98122
United States
206-398-4026 (Phone)
206-398-4036 (Fax)

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