The Richmond California Ghetto
Either Richmen or Richtown, the aliases for this North Bay city that often gets overlooked by being in a metropolitan region that is also home to more known cities of Oakland and San Francisco.
Richmond is a city that barely has over 100,000 is predominantly Hispanic with Asians, African-Americans, and whites also having their own separate sizeable communities within the city limits of the city.
While the city is very diverse with multiple cultures, the story of the city’s black community and the culture of the streets of North Richmond, Central Richmond and South Richmond is one of the Bay Area’s most unique.
In a quick breakdown of the streets of Richmond, the city urban communities are based in areas like North Richmond, Parchester Village, Deep C of Central Richmond and South Richmond broken into the SouthSide 30s, SouthSide 40s and housing complexes like Kennedy Manor and Crescent Park.
North Richmond, to some referred as the Nolia, is the city’s oldest black community as families have spent generations in this isolated community with only a few streets leading in and out of the North Richmond neighborhood.
Over the years the community of North Richmond has built a reputation due to certain sections of the neighborhood like a housing complex along 1st Street that has been known as the “Project Trojans”, a community that has always had the media’s attention.
Central Richmond is one of the largest regions in Richmond, also known as the Deep C, as this part of the city is sectioned off into blocks like 600, 700, and 800 or ‘hoods like the Barretts apartment complex.
South of Central Richmond is the South Side, an area that gained a black population due to the sections of public housing during the time that black families worked in the shipyards and other wartime industries.
Years later, South Richmond would become known for neighborhoods like the Backstreets, Easter Hills, the 30s, and the 40s, along with housing complexes like Kennedy Manor (The Manor), GlobeTown (the former Richmond Townhouses and now Pullman Point), and Crescent Park.
While the city of Richmond, California has always had a small black population for generations, most came during the time of World War II in the 1940s to work in the shipyards and other wartime factories.
Many would experience racism and discrimination during their early years of arrival in the city of Richmond as mistreatment of a population led to them to create a community in North Richmond, which was the city’s first community for African-Americans.
Technically, the neighborhood of North Richmond is not in the actual city of Richmond, instead it is an unincorporated community in Contra Costa County that is surrounded by the city limits and jurisdiction of Richmond.
Due to its isolation, along with not being part of the actual city of Richmond, the community goes unnoticed and does not receive the proper resources as other areas of Richmond and Contra Costa County.
The North Richmond California ghetto was always a neglected community, even in the community’s early days while the city of Richmond was expanding, and many public officials refused to incorporate North Richmond into the city.
Despite efforts by officials to neglect the community, North Richmond had its moments of a thriving community with a number of black owned businesses during a time when black people were not allowed to live or visit areas outside of their community.
Before the days of integration, there was much racial tension in the city where many whites were not welcomed or afraid to go into the black community of North Richmond, while African-Americans would receive even worse treatment outside of their neighborhood.
Eventually the black community would move outside of North Richmond, mostly in the public housing complexes of South Richmond and Central Richmond as temporary housing became available for workers in the nearby wartime industries.
Many of the city’s public housing complexes would become demolished after many of the wartime factories became closed following the end of the war, but many of the city’s black population remained in the area.
During the 1950s, many African-Americans tried to move into places outside of North Richmond, especially after the city destroyed many of the housing projects that many African-Americans were living in.
Places like Central Richmond, communities of the Iron Triangle and Coronado, were some of the first places African-Americans tried to move into, while just north of North Richmond a small black subdivision by the name of Parchester Village was constructed.
Parchester Village, an extremely isolated neighborhood that is mostly in an area by itself, was built during a time of segregation and a time when African-Americans struggled for their rights and obtaining public services.
With many African-Americans wanting the same resources as the white community, many eventually wanted to live in other areas of the city, even as many black families were redlined from living in certain areas of Richmond.
Eventually, areas like the South Richmond around Cutting Blvd. or Central Richmond became the heart of Richmond’s black community, along with the steady community of North Richmond.
Click to see more on Richmond and other California communities.
*Note: All information is provided through people of the community, outside sources, and research. Some information might not be current and/or 100% accurate.
Corburn, Jason. Healthy City Planning: From Neighbourhood to National Health Equity. Routledge, 2013.
DeBolt, David, and Robert Rogers. “North Richmond: Most Killings Go Unsolved in Tiny Enclave.” The Mercury News, The Mercury News, 12 Aug. 2016, www.mercurynews.com/2014/04/05/north-richmond-most-killings-go-unsolved-in-tiny-enclave
Erenberg, Lewis A., and Susan E. Hirsch. The War in American Culture: Society and Consciousness during World War II. University of Chicago Press, 1996.
Moore, Shirley Ann Wilson. To Place Our Deeds: the African American Community in Richmond, California, 1910-1963. University of California Press, 2000.