Notes on Black Baltimore (1993)

McDougall, Harold. Black Baltimore: A New Theory of Community. Temple University Press, 1993.

Dr. A.K. Warner of Chicago (McDougall, p. 47 citing Power) provided advice to Mayor on “tactics” for:

public officials and civic leaders sought to maintain housing segregation through official and unofficial pressure on white owners not to rent or sell to blacks, and through slum clearance measures.

McDougall describes “a conspiracy to keep Baltimore’s black population confined in detriorating central-city neighborhoods.” (Note: Conspiracy may be seen as an inflammatory word but I know it has been used by other scholars to describe related aspects for the process of maintaining housing segregation.)

“Racially restrictive covenants” upheld by Maryland Court of Appeals Decision as “private action” (see timeline Meade v. Dennison?, 1938); later overturned by Shelley v. Kramer

“Land-use control in Baltimore influenced New Deal landuse policy” (p. 48) (Note: Talking about segregation as land-use control is a useful concept.)

See also (p. 48):

  • major role of Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. (Olmsted Brothers) in working for the Baltimore’s Municipal Art Society.
  • Francis Biddle’s refusal to meet with National Urban League Officials in the 1940s (?)

  • National Housing Act of 1934: “promoted and insured long-term, low-interest home mortgages in Baltimore’s lily-white suburbs.”
  • Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (a.k.a the GI Bill): authorized the VA to garauntee “no-down-payment mortgage loans to veterans”
  • 1950 to 1960: Owner-occupied share of Baltimore metropolitan housing market went from 55% to 63% (Source for this data is not clear in the text)
  • August 1955: Dr. Frank Horne fired from the Housing and Home Finance Agency

McDougall writes (p. 49):

“By the time federal practices supporting private housing discrimination were finally eliminated, suburban Baltimore County… had established a system of zoning regulatoions that excluded apartments and set minimum lot and house sizes. Those who wished to escape the taxes and squalor of the city were now limited in their ability to do so by the cost of housing and commuting. Exclusionary zoning, though couched in terms of income rather than race, had the practical effect of reinforcing existing divisions along racial lines simply because if you were blacks could afford the suburban housing made more expensive by such regulations.

Expanded federal taxing and borrowing after World War II and the Korean War subsidize the development and decentralization of industry and as the plants moved out of the city the construction of suburban housing nearby and the roads needed to travel between these newly developed areas in the port downtown the federal government that laid the groundwork for the massive blue-collar suburbanization at the post World War II period. In the 25 years, following World War II industrial plants moved out of northeastern cities into the suburbs of those cities, drawing with them the housing demand generated by blue-collar workers.

McDougall notes that the “outward migration of housing demand intersected with investment capital’s tendency to migrate outward from the central core in search of cheap land.”

African American residents in Baltimore lost in two areas:

  • “shut out of the new jobs in the suburbs by inadequate transportation and labor union bias” and “prevented from entering suburban homes for housing discrimination”
  • “by their lack of access to jobs and income”

(Note: in this reading, it may make sense to talk about the dollar house program as another example of federal subsidy for racial segregation. This argument may require additional data about the composition of the early residents of the dollar house neighborhoods.)

  • late 1930s: Baltimore Citizens Housing Commitee (BCHC) formed; disbanded in 1940 (some members felt the creation of BHA met the group’s goal; others weary)
  • City Council of Baltimore declared the need for a public housing program over opposition from Mayor Howard W. Jackson (date?); December 13, 1938, Jackson appointed the first five commissioners to the Baltimore Housing Authority (BHA)
  • Citizens Housing Council formed (date?)
  • The plan formed by BHA has a provision of replacing every unit of housing demolished with a new unit; “linked the slum clearance and public housing features of the new law” but the “link was broken, and many more low-income units were destroyed than were built.” (Source?)
  • 1953: Baltimore Housing Authory begins building high-rise public housing

William Murphy, Sr. (interview with McDougall):

Upton just burst at the seams. It used to be a delightful neighborhood, achievers in every area. Good conduct, participation the church life, community uplift, great contacts. Even when times were hard during the depression the people were good. People left their doors open ,they reported parents when kids miss behaved every child with everyone’s child. These were the things that made Upton what it was.

p. 56

  • 1956: BHA and the Baltimore Redevelopment Commission merged to create the Baltimore Urban Renewal and Housing Agency (BURHA)
  • 1972: funds for the Upton project approved by federal government[@mcdougall_black_1993, 56]
  • 1973 (McDougall says 1972): Nixon established a “moratorium on disbursements of federal money for such projects”[@mcdougall_black_1993, 56] (Source: This history of HUD timeline which also jumps from 1937 to 1965 without a single event in between!)

McDougall mentions (p. 57):

  • riots in Cambridge in 1963 and 1967
  • Governor Spiro T. Agnew send troops to Bowie State in “retaliation for a student uprising on campus.”

McDougall cites source identifying St. Gregory’s in Sandown as a site of local BPP organizing

Baltimore Committee for Political Freedom “formed because of fear that the local police were planning to assassinate Black Panther Party leaders in the city”; membership included:

  • Dr. Peter Rossi, Social Relations Department of Johns Hopkins University
  • William Zinman, attorney for the Maryland ACLU
  • Rev. Chester Wickwire, white minister

1974: revealed that Donald Pommerlau “had secretly compiled dossiers on people he considered subversive” (including Parren Mitchell, Rev. Marion Bascom, and other members of the Interfaith Ministerial Alliance)

Paul Coates on the Black Panther Party in Baltimore (early 1969 to late 1972):

I thought that the party was doing things that would have an impact on the lives of black people. It seemed like a good vehicle. When I came in, I had only a limited basis for understanding the world. I just knew it was fucked up. But I had no perspective, no point of view. No process for sorting out the significance of the things I was seeing and experiencing, no process for validating my views against those of other people. In the party I began to develop my own system of political understanding. The party had a structure in place to encourage political education. He provided a setting where I could interact with people who are searching for answers, and with some who thought they knew the answers.[@mcdougall_black_1993, 59]

Rev. Vernon Dobson criticized the BPP as a “reactive organization” (p. 60) citing the need for an “institution that has a history” continuing (p. 61):

The only such institution we have is the black church, and it was the breakdown of our communities following the civil rights movement that made black churchmen realize we had to get ourselves together again, and look for new forms of action.