Posts Tagged ‘segregation’

Obama and the Hill: Part 2

When Ann Dunham settled down on Capitol Hill in 1961, it’s doubtful it was of her own volition. The Seattle Municipal Archives shows that the push for civil rights movement within Seattle began as early as 1949 with letters from groups “requesting the city not accept plats [of land] with restrictive covenants”. In 1953, the city council agreed and in 1957, the State passed the Omnibus Civil Rights Act. Although, attempts were made to enforce such anti-discrimination legislature, white citizens (such as realtor John L. Scott) pressed to continue residential segregation via buy-outs and physical intimidation. A request came to Seattle City Council in 1961 from the NAACP, “propos[ing] that the City pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing.”

Comptroller File 244098. Comptroller Files, 1802-01. Seattle Municipal Archives

Courtesy: Comptroller File 244098. Comptroller Files, 1802-01. Seattle Municipal Archives

After a series of examples of public protest such as a sit-in and marches through the years 1961 to 1963, the city council finally sent the opening housing ordinance to voters on March 10th, 1964 where it was defeated by a landslide. The next for years, the civil rights movement fought the battle at a national level, with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King’s and other leaders spreading hope through out the country.

“Finally, on April 19, 1968, three weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., an open housing ordinance was passed unanimously by the City Council, with an emergency clause to make it effective immediately. It was signed by the Mayor the same day.” (Seattle Municipal Archives)

Today, when we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., we can reflect on the effects his work produced in our own community.

Obama and the Hill: Part 1

Recently on CapitolHillSeattle.com, several posts have popped up
regarding the temporary residence of an infant President-Elect Obama
and his mother Ann Dunham on our very own Capitol Hill, to be specific
516 13th Ave E, in an apartment complex that no longer exists.

Today, Capitol Hill is synonymous with diversity and acceptance. On
November 4th, 2008, we banded together in celebration of the election
of our first African American president. A drag queen sang God Bless
America from the Neighbours rooftop as people of all colors, creeds,
and sexual orientations wept with joy in the streets below. Many had
become one, our community unified by a “change you can believe in”.
This is the Capitol Hill and the Seattle we are familiar with.

Unfortunately, the history of Seattle’s Capitol Hill is not quite as
uplifting. On the website Segregated Seattle, one finds a deeper look
into our city’s sordid past of racially restrictive property and
neighborhood covenants, real estate and job lockouts for African and
Asian Americans, as well acts of violence on their homes.

The Capitol Hill Times briefly courts the subject of race in their article “Barack Obama: from Capitol Hill to Capitol Hill”by commenting on the likelihood Ann Dunham “came across many social
prejudices in the predominantly all-white campus” when in reality,
just three years previous to her move to Seattle, a mixed-race couple
Ray and Marion West, found a cross burning outside their house U-
District home. CHT continues “[p]erhaps Ann Obama felt more at ease in
the diverse neighborhood of Capitol Hill”. It’s doubtful she had much
of a choice.

Map of residential patterns for African Americans in 1960 from Segregated Seattle.

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