Segregation shaped Richmond’s development well into the twentieth century. In late 1901 and early 1902, Virginia’s powerbrokers drafted and ratified a new state constitution that sanctioned segregation.
Learn MoreThe Commonwealth’s constitution not only authorized the use of poll taxes and literacy tests to keep most blacks and poor whites from the electoral politics; racial segregation guaranteed that white elites would maintain control over public and private life in Richmond for most of the twentieth century. By the mid-twentieth century, years of urban redevelopment and disinvestment had left sizable portions of the so-called city underdeveloped. By the 1970s, deep patterns of residential segregation and economic inequality characterized the city’s African American enclaves—which, as it happens, still make up a significant portion of Richmond’s poorest communities. Yet, in 1977, the city of Richmond elected its first black-majority council in a system created by the Supreme Court. By the early 1980s, the commonwealth’s capital was one of thirteen U.S. cities with populations greater than 100,000 to be controlled by a black city council, mayor, and administration. By the end of the twentieth century, an increase in African American populations in densely packed enclaves, unremitting residential segregation, and white flight had taken their toll on the city. Richmond has only recently recovered from these trends.
RedliningIn 1937, the Home Owners and Loan Corporation set out to grade neighborhoods around the country. These grades were meant to determine the “credit worthiness” of a neighborhood. HOLC graded racial minority neighborhoods in Richmond D or F effectively “redlining” these neighborhoods, which led to the concentration of poverty in these spaces in the ensuing decades.
- Redlining in New Deal America: Richmond (Digital Scholarship Lab, UR)
- Redlining Richmond (Digital Scholarship Lab, UR)
- Mapping Inequality (Library of Virginia and Housing Opportunities Made Equal)
- “Race: The House we Live In” (PBS)
Urban RenewalDuring the 1950’s and 1960’s, the urban renewal strategy in Richmond included highway projects, public housing projects, and economic development projects. Urban renewal aimed to reduce urban blight, but in action these projects further concentrated poverty in Richmond. The construction of Interstate 95 and 195 displaced residents and businesses in minority neighborhoods including Jackson Ward, Navy Hill, Shockoe Bottom, and Randolph.
- The Dream is Lost by Julian Maxwell Hayter
- Twentieth Century Richmond by Christopher Silver
- Richmond’s Unhealed History, by Ben Campbell ch. 8
- Built by Blacks, by Seldon Richardson ch. 7 & 8
- Visit the Valentine’s core exhibit, This is Richmond