The Portsmouth VA Ghetto Story
The story of a place nicknamed Pistol City shows how the streets of the Portsmouth VA ghetto became what they are in today’s generation.
As the black community of Portsmouth began to developed, it was one of the largest and one of the most thriving areas for the Hampton Roads African-American community.
The heart of Portsmouth’s black community was once around Effingham and County streets, with a number of black owned businesses and entertainment.*
Some of the other original black communities were Brighton, Lincolnsville, Newtown, Ebony Heights and Twin Pines in today’s Churchland area, or the Douglas Park / Truxton area which was built for families of black workers in the shipyards.*
Starting around the 1950s, the city slowly began to desegregate, along with certain communities becoming demolished due to the building of housing projects and highways, like the building of the Ida Barbour housing project near the Effingham Street black business district.*
During the 1970s, many of Portsmouth neighborhoods became predominantly black and began to take shape, as people were able to move into different sections of the city, with the older residents leaving for newer areas.*
The Portsmouth VA ghetto and the urban community is divided into two parts, with one being “Uptown” and the other being “Downtown”.
The Uptown area has communities like Cavalier Manor, a suburb that was built strictly for black families, while the Downtown section is home to the older neighborhoods of Portsmouth like Prentis Park, which became an all-black community by the 1950s after white flight into other neighborhoods.
In the era of the 90s and 2000s, the city of Portsmouth began to gentrified some its communities and demolished most of the housing projects in the Portsmouth VA ghetto, like Ida Barbour, Washington Park, and Jeffry Wilson, and turned them into mixed income apartment complexes.
This led to many people to relocate into Portsmouth’s Uptown community like the Churchland neighborhood.
Out of all of the seven cities of the Hampton Roads community, Portsmouth is one of the more urban areas compared to other places in the Tidewater area.
Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.
History of Portsmouth Resources:
*Newby-Alexander, Cassandra. Breckenridge-Haywood, Mae. “Portsmouth Virginia (Black America Series)” . Arcadia Publishing. 2003