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Old 11-06-2009, 08:59 AM
 
13 posts, read 87,991 times
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Default Why is the African-American population of DC so high? (history)

I live right outside of DC, and I was wondering if anyone could tell me the reason that DC has such a large African-American population, making up close to 80% of the city.

LA has a high Mexican population because it is on the border of Mexico. Miami has a high Cuban population because it is right across the sea from Cuba. San Francisco is heavily Chinese because that was the Pacific coast port, whereas New York and Boston were made up of heavily European immigrants. But my question is what is it about Washington, DC that attracted such a high African-American population in history.

With New York and other Northeastern cities, the population was made up of Irish, Italian, and Eastern European immigrants until 1950, when the Puerto Ricans and blacks began moving in, and alot of the European-Americans moved into the Suburbs. Now there's alot of immigrants from all over Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia in Northeastern cities. So cities like Boston, Philly, New York, and even Baltimore have a mix of all those cultures.

But DC, like Baltimore, are between the North and the South. But it is still a major Eastern seaboard urban center. I am wondering why no Irish or Italians or Poles or Jews moved there back in the 1900s. From everything I've read, it doesn't seem like there was ever a "There goes the Neighborhood" phenomenon in DC like there was in the other cities. I'm pretty sure there was never a "Little Italy" in Washington DC.

So this brings up alot of questions. Did Washington, DC have a culture before 1950 like the urban Northeast, or was it like a Southern city like Atlanta? Did most of the blacks migrate to DC from Southern Virginia and North Carolina? Also when did this migration happen? Are there any blue-collar white neighborhoods in DC? It seems like all the white neighborhoods in DC are extremely wealthy, whereas the rest are middle, working, and poor neighborhoods, almost all African-American. If there are any urban working-class whites in DC, are they White Ethnics (immigrant descent from the Northeast) or WASPs (white people with families native to the Virginia area)

I have been wondering this for a long time, could anybody help me.
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Old 11-06-2009, 10:20 AM
 
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Hella,

DC is very similar to northeast cities and also very different. The migration patterns of (Euro) whites shows that they went to cities in the NE that had industries. NYC, Boston, Philly and Baltimore! People working in these industries lived among their own, spawning ethnic hoods which were usually poor.

DC's industry is government, which has always paid a better salary. Most of the immigrants coming into the country didn't have any skills other than working hard hours with their hands in factories and on the docks. Whites in DC worked in government back in the day and had the means to live in better neighborhoods than most. So that's why DC didn't develop the poor white hoods you see in other NE cities. However, DC did have a major white flight like NYC & Philly. It all happened around the time that automobile industry and Eisenhower's Interstate Roadway system took off!

During and after WW2, AA started to move up from the (VA & NC) south, looking for low level jobs in government. At the time, the government workers had programs that made it easier to buy a house and get a car. My grandfather paid $28,000 for a house in Petworth in the 50's. After he moved in, other AA's did the same. He told me that once AA started to move in, the white people started to move out. Most of these hoods were Jewish. DC had a high jewish population back in the 30's, 40's, and 50's. They owned all of the department stores DT. Maury Povich talks about it all the time. I think he attended Cardoza High School on 13th Street NW.

If you go to the MLK Library in DT DC, they have a Washingtonian room. You can see pictures of white people living in rowhouses in Petworth, Shaw, Columbia Heights, SW, etc...as late as the 50's. Coolidge High School in Takoma, DC has pictures of all white graduation classes. Cardoza too!

Way before Atlanta, DC has always been a mecca for AA. DC's culture was more southern back then. Not on Atlanta's level but it was southern. U street was the Black Broadway before Harlem. AA have always had more opportunities here because of government. DC has always had a high AA population since slavery but DC didn't really become "Chocolate City" until the early 60's. As DC gentrifies, it is losing AA population to the suburbs like PG AND Charles Counties. DC is not 80% AA. It's probably around 45%.
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Old 11-06-2009, 10:52 AM
 
Location: Far Northeast, D.C. and Montgomery County, MD
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Basically what DC's Finest just said. But I think this area as a whole is becoming diverse. Yea more and more African-Americans are moving out of DC, but some are also moving in. Plus PG and Charles ain't the only places that "we" are immigrating too. Montgomery County is looking pretty diverse itself, and so is the rest of the DC Metro area, with the except of Calvert County. But you should check out the MLK library someday, DC has a very strong black history, probably the strongest in this country.
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Old 11-06-2009, 12:51 PM
 
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So the White Neighborhoods in DC were WASP or Jewish basically? WASP government people, Jewish store owners?

Are you black DC's finest? Anyway thanks for the answer, really helpful?
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Old 11-06-2009, 12:58 PM
 
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OH, and I have another question. How could the poor unskilled blacks from Norfolk and the Carolinas contribute to government jobs in DC that European immigrants couldn't. Like what skills would a poor Southern black man of that time have that an immigrant from Ireland or Italy wouldnt have. I guess the Blacks spoke English, but a sharecropper from South Carolina and a potato farmer from Ireland have about the same skills.

Who did all the construction jobs and blue-collar labor in Washington, DC?
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Old 11-06-2009, 08:48 PM
 
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Hella,

Yes i am black and i studied DC history. Keep in mind that government did not become big business until the 30's and during and after the war years. That's when many blacks migrated to DC for menial government work. These blacks were not special by any means but they were willing to do the jobs that whites didn't want for much less pay. The jobs they were doing were much better than the labor/pay in the deep south. So in a distorted sense, they had actually made it.

The immigrant explosion in NYC and other east coast cities happened much earlier than the black migration. These ethnic hoods were established many decades before. So DC was not considered a better option for the ethnic populace due to the fact that they would have to leave the comfort of their neighborhoods and start over. You have to really understand the mindset back then. Getting a job in an industry and living among their ethnic group was an achievement in those days. Many of them were singled minded but coming from their humble backgrounds, they were living a lot better than in Europe. Plus they were learning a skill set working in the factories.

DT DC used to look like DT Baltimore and Philly in the 50's thru early 80's. Lots of small to mid sized retail stores along F & G streets. 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th, 12th, & 14th streets also had retail stores, porno places and book stores that were sort of run down but it was the place to shop before the burb malls popped up all over. Woodies, Hetchs & Garfinkles were the upscale anchors. Most of the these places were owned by DC jews. The areas I mentioned is the original DT DC! Because of height restrictions and increasing rents, DC only had one way to grow which was out. All of the small stores were priced out. Many of the jews packed up and moved to the burgeoning malls in the suburbs. Retail was replaced with commercial office space. DT DC spread all the way north to Mass avenue; west to Foggy Bottom; south to the Mall and east to Capitol Hill. DC now has the third largest DT in the US and the second highest commercial office rents behind Midtown Manhattan. Most of this construction was done by whites in the 70's' blacks in the 80's and early 90's and hispanics from the mid 90's until now.
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Old 11-07-2009, 08:22 AM
 
Location: Washington, DC
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DC is becoming less black. Just to provide a comparison - Cleveland was 46% A-A in 1990, DC 66% - not even close. Yet by 2008, Cleveland was 53%, DC 54%.

Atlanta, Detroit, Baltimore, New Orleans, and soon Cleveland and St. Louis have higher portion of the pop. that is A-A. Main reason is DC has one of the fastest growing white populations of any major city.


DC's A-A community developed very differently than other cities. The city was 30% black in 1870, long before the migration from the south brought blacks to industrial cities in the north. NYC for example, was just 3% A-A in 1870. The reason was DC was a mecca for freed slaves before the Civil War, who had to leave their home states, yet could stay in the District which literally bordered the south. A similar, though not as strong trend occurred in Cincinnati, which had the same geographic situation.

DC was actually less black in 1940 than it was in 1870, a rarity among large cities, because it didn't have industrial jobs that attracted blacks to places like Cleveland, Detroit, NY, etc.

Now the reason the % got so high after WW2 is the following. DC never had a large population of white Catholics like Boston, NY, Philly, Chicago, etc, and Catholics were the whites most likely to stay in the city during the 60s and 70s, partly because they didn't want to leave their parishes. But the middle-class whites in DC were largely Jewish and Protestant, and they high tailed it to Maryland mostly. There are still Jewish cemetaries in SE where Jews used to live, including the massive Washington Hebrew Cemetary near the Congress Heights metro stop. When they left, there were far fewer Irish and Italians remaining in the city than there were in other cities, so the resulting proportion of population that was A-A skyrocketed to 71% by 1970.
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Old 11-07-2009, 03:07 PM
 
13 posts, read 87,991 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DC's Finest View Post
Hella,

Most of this construction was done by whites in the 70's' blacks in the 80's and early 90's and hispanics from the mid 90's until now.
Thanks for all the information. I hope I don't sound ignorant, I'm not trying to. Now the whites you say did the construction in DC in the 1970s and before, I assume they would not be "white ethnics" like the ones who lived up North, but instead WASPs or "rednecks" (sorry I dont mean to sound rude by saying that). Now, if there weren't blue-collar white ethnic neigborhoods in DC, were you saying there were blue-collar WASP neighborhoods?
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Old 11-08-2009, 08:02 AM
 
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Most of the whites who worked construction in the 70's were from neighboring areas such as PG County and Northern Virginia. These areas had large pockets of middle class whites at the time. Now today, that has changed considerably. But in the 70's, you could definitely find them. And yes, they were not ethnic at all. They most likely were good ole boys.
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Old 11-08-2009, 09:09 AM
 
404 posts, read 594,273 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HellaFool View Post
Thanks for all the information. I hope I don't sound ignorant, I'm not trying to. Now the whites you say did the construction in DC in the 1970s and before, I assume they would not be "white ethnics" like the ones who lived up North, but instead WASPs or "rednecks" (sorry I dont mean to sound rude by saying that). Now, if there weren't blue-collar white ethnic neigborhoods in DC, were you saying there were blue-collar WASP neighborhoods?

Interesting... now normal working class whites are considered "rednecks" for lack of a better term? At least your username is accurate.
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