Seattle, WA

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The Seattle Ghetto Story

The Seattle ghetto has become less and less, as Seattle gentrification is changing the racial makeup of many communities throughout King County’s Seattle, Washington.

Job opportunities of the 1940s helped many families of many different ethnic backgrounds to relocate into the city of Seattle, while some were not that welcomed and others were used as recruitment tools to help end strikes by the white workers.

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The Old Central District. Courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

Before the mid-1900s, many African Americans, Asians, and other ethnic groups that were not white, lived around South Jackson Street.

The Jackson Street area would later become the area of the original community for the Seattle Asian population in the International District and also the original community for the Seattle black population in the Central District.

During World War II, the need of housing for wartime workers led to Seattle to develop housing projects like High Point of West Seattle, South Park Courts, or Holly Park of Rainer Valley, making the city to have five housing projects by the early 1940s.

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Over the years, the Seattle black population grew as many moved into Seattle communities, mostly neighborhoods of the Central District and later into Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley.

Before many African-Americans arrived into Seattle, communities like the Central District was a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

The Central District, which was centered around areas like East Madison or 23rd Avenue, was originally created through segregation and racial discrimination, meaning that this area was the only place that the Seattle black population could live at, with the area being 70% African-American during the 1960s and 1970s.

seattle ghetto seattle black population

Aerial view of the Central District. Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives / Flickr.com

Many of the Seattle black population originally worked in the few wartime positions that they were able to find, the shipyards, the railroad lines, laborers, or as servants.

Throughout the years the Seattle black population would have their experiences of trials and tribulations, which helped certified the Black Panthers’ and Seattle’s Civil Rights movements in an attempt to help the community, mainly during the 1960s and 70s.

Outside of the Seattle black population, Seattle is very diverse with Latino’s, Asians, and Pacific Islanders or Samoans.

Areas of the Seattle ghetto like South Park became heavily known for the Seattle Hispanic population, which started to grow sometime around the 1960s and 1970s.

Today, the Seattle Hispanic population and community is mostly based in the West Seattle and the Southwest Seattle areas.

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The Seattle Asian population has one of the largest communities in the city, while being located in numerous of neighborhoods but the majority live in the International District and have later spread into other parts like Bellevue or the South End, starting around the 1960s.

From the 1960s to the 1990s, many white families began to leave parts of the South End like Beacon Hill and Rainier Valley, as other ethnic groups were slowly moving into the South End communities due to having a limit of options of places they could live.

When the city’s job market began to slowdown, especially as the large employer of Boeing was declining in production, many communities of the Seattle ghetto were hit hard with financial troubles and unemployment.

Some might say with the lack of opportunities turned people into the streets of the Seattle ghetto, while others would say the introduction to drugs or the national trend and popularity of nationwide gangs.

seattle ghetto

Yesler Terrace. Courtesy of Joe Wolf/Flickr

Over the years the streets of the Seattle ghetto would create a various gangs of all racial backgrounds.

With the Seattle ghetto having many comparisons to other West Coast cities, the early 1990s gave reputations to the city’s housing projects and neighborhoods in places like the Central District or West Seattle.

As Seattle gentrification is rebuilding the housing projects into mixed income apartments, beginning in the early 2000s, and redeveloping Seattle’s most sought after communities like the Central District, Seattle is changing by the day.

seattle ghetto seattle gentrification

Seattle Gentrification in Holly Park. Courtesy of Brett VA / Flickr

Today, Seattle gentrification has been relocating people throughout the Seattle metropolitan.

Places like West Seattle, the South End’s Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill, cities south of Seattle’s city limit like Skyway, SeaTac or Renton, have many to create new communities especially with the help of some receiving Section 8 vouchers.

For the most part, the city of Seattle is one of the most diverse cities in the country, even though there is a percentage of African-Americans in the city, many claim that Seattle gentrification of the Central District is removing the black community from Seattle.

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Check out more on Seattle and other communities of Washington.

*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research.  Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.

Seattle History Sources:

Beason, Tyrone. “Seattle’s Vanishing Black Community”. The Seattle Times. 26 May 2016. Web. 20 November 2016.

Cisneros, Henry G. and Engdahl, Lora. “From Despair to Hope”. Brookings Institution Press, Washington DC. 2009.

Henry, Mary. “Seattle Neighborhoods: Central Area – Thumbnail History”. HistoryLink.org. 10 March 2001. Web. 20 November 2016

Jackson, Reagan. “Who’s afraid of Rainier Beach?”. The Seattle Globalist. 3 July 2014. Web. 20 November 2016. http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2014/07/03/crime-rainier-beach-safety-seattle/27281

Merrell, Frederica and Latoszek, Mira. “Seattle’s Beacon Hill”. Arcadia Publishing. 2003

Lyons, William. “The Politics of Community Policing: Rearranging the Power to Punish”. The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor. 1999.

Wilma, David. “Seattle Neighborhoods: South Park – Thumbnail History”. HistoryLink.org. 16 February 2001. Web. 20 November 2016. http://www.historylink.org/File/2985

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