Austin Restricted: Progressivism, Zoning, Private Racial Covenants, and the Making of a Segregated City
In many respects, the story of racial segregation in Austin, Texas, is not unique. It is the story of nearly every major city in the United States, especially those in the South and all major cities in Texas (Massey and Denton 1993 pgs. 17-58; Wade 1971). In the latter portion of the 19th century, non-whites, especially African-Americans (but not Hispanics), could be found in most neighborhoods in Austin. However, by 1940, African-Americans and Hispanics were overwhelmingly spatially segregated in an isolated section of the city known as East Austin. As Sara Lucy observed in 1939, “The city’s Negro population is not large compared to many other populous Texas cites, nor is its Mexican population. Both races, through natural choice, are largely segregated in their sections of the city” (Lucy 1938). The segregation of non-whites was far from voluntary, as I will show, and for more than 60 years, until about the 2000 census, the patterns of race and housing that had been locked in during the early period of the 20th century remained largely unchanged; only recently have these geographies become undone by private urban revitalization efforts broadly classified as gentrification (Tretter Forthcoming).