Lately I’ve been reading Not in My Neighborhood by Antero Pietila. It’s the story of how racial prejudice and legally mandated segregation led Baltimore to become more famous for its heroin and blight than its harbor and monuments.
Another thing I did recently was use Google Fusion and data released by Baltimore City on the locations of all properties deemed “uninhabitable” to come up with this map.
Take a look at McCulloh Street. It’s just west of Eutaw Place in the northwest corner of the city. On June 9, 1910 Margaret Franklin Brewer – a white woman – sold 1834 McCulloh Street to W. Ashbie Hawkins, a black lawyer. Three weeks later The Baltimore Sun reported on the sale, declaring there was a “Negro Invasion” occurring in Baltimore.
Six months later on December 9, 1910, Baltimore became the first legislature in the nation to use the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson to justify legally dividing the entire city into “white blocks” and “black blocks”, with McCulloh Street as a major dividing line between the two. And now, 114 years later you can still see that dividing line on the map in the number of abandoned houses on either side of the street.
If you’ve ever wondered how Baltimore ended up the way it has I highly recommend checking out that book. It’s an, at times, surprising and disturbing story but one well worth knowing about of everything from racism and bigotry to eugenics and redlining.