1955: Racially Segregated Housing Opens 

The West Dallas housing project opened in 1955 and was a solution to the “Negro Housing Problem.” Across Dallas, individuals didn’t want black families in white areas. “…the need for additional low-income housing to keep blacks from moving into white areas” became known as the “Negro Housing Problem.” Dallas City Council member Roland Pells advocated for “an entire Negro city” to be built next to the Trinity River.” However, black leaders did not support this plan (Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev.,1989).

With city leaders concerned about black families in white spaces, the two most powerful business organizations, Dallas Citizens Council and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce, created a committee to “…investigate black housing conditions in Greater Dallas” (Fairbanks, 1989, p. 39). After their investigation, the committee advised that public housing be built. Additionally, the committee said that the black housing shortages created health and welfare issues for black residents and the rest of the community.  Although the committee acknowledged that public housing was controversial, the Dallas Housing Authority eventually took on the project.

West Dallas Housing Projects (Hacker, 2017).

With an overt racial discrimination policy, the housing project included 1,500 units for blacks, 1,500 for whites, and 500 for Mexican-Americans. After two years, there were numerous units in the white and Mexican-American parts that were vacant (Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev.,1989).

This housing project is one example of how communities of color were placed in public housing to prevent them from living in white neighborhoods. Not only was the answer to a lack of housing for people of color public housing, but the site for the West Dallas housing project was/is environmentally toxic.

The effects of this segregated housing project are numerous. For example, the education of students in West Dallas has suffered. Carver Elementary opened in 1954 in response to the housing project, eventually closing in 2017. The causes of its closing begin with the segregated housing that Dallas thought would be the answer to the “Negro Housing Problem” (Hacker, 2017).

“As long as you have segregated housing, you’re going to get a segregated education,” said Donald Payton, a longtime local historian. “You can put the newest school with the newest things in there. But if I’m hungry and I’m sleeping two or three families deep in the projects, then how am I supposed to be expected to succeed” (Hacker, 2017, para. 6)?

If you would like to skip ahead on the timeline to topics related to segregated housing, click on the topic below:

Due to racist housing practices with the Fair Public Housing in West Dallas, four community members filed a lawsuit against the DHA:

Hacker, H. K. (2017, July 27). When the worst elementary school in Dallas closes, what happens to the kids? The Dallas Morning News. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2017/07/27/when-the-worst-elementary-school-in-dallas-closes-what-happens-to-the-kids/

Fairbanks, R. B. (1989). From Consensus to controversy. The rise and fall of public housing in Dallas. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas. https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35123/m1/41/

Walker v. US Dept. of Housing & Urban Dev., 734 F. Supp. 1289 (1989). https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/734/1289/1461714/