Growing up in San Diego- Redlining comes to the Freeman Family (Part 2)

There are only two reasons  people live where they live:

  1. Because they want to

  2. Because they have to

For the vast majority of minorities the #2 reason is their only reason for living where they live.

When World War II came to an end and with it one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation to come out of the U.S. Congress was the G.I. Bill. Its promise of education and home ownership helped propel WWII veterans into the middle class and to develop generational wealth. And like my father wrote he was denied that benefit although he earned it. This is just one of his stories from the battle field.”

This is just one of his stories from the battle field.”

“To this day, during December 1944, P. Frank “…did not understand why [his] unit commanded [him] to take an armored car to a depot in Liege, Belgium. [He] was the only one, and Liege [was] 210 miles from Paris. It was cold, and that armored car looked like a medium tank but with wheels rather than tracks. It rode like a Cadillac but had no heater and no headlights. When it got dark, [he] had to pull off the road and into the woods for cover. The next morning [he] was on his way to Liege again, but soon noticed there were a lot of troops coming back for some relief.”

“Continuing his journey to Liege, he soon came upon a roadblock “…and was stopped by some military police. One of them yelled at [him] ‘Where in the hell do you think you’re going?’ ‘To Liege’ was P. Frank Jr.’s reply. ‘Like hell you are, the Germans are in Liege.’ Leaving the armored car off the road, P. Frank Jr. was placed into a truck, and back to Paris he went, making his way back to his unit’s command in Chateau de Vincennes. Later he learned “… that was the Battle of the Bulge, and like a fool, [he] was the only one going forward while everybody else was coming back.”

Based upon an article on the History(dot)com website. When army veteran Eugene Burnett saw tract homes in Levitton, New York for sale, he sought out a salesman for the subdivision and inquired about using his G.I. bill to purchase a home. What a great deal- $0 down and 4% interest rate. But alas he discovered that the subdivision was not opened to Black people. He had no idea and neither did my father that that aspect of the G.I. Bill was not available to him or any other person of color. That policy was hammered out during the Great Depression. Housing segregation was defined as government policy.

So, how did this government policy come about. I will summarize the 18 minute award winning video “Segregated by Design.”

1. New Deal policies under FDR instituted policies that segregated cities. View the video Segregated by Design at the above link.   How did this come about?  It came about when the  first civilian public housing program was instituted.   But to do this, an integrated neighborhood was destroyed so that segregated public housing could be established.

2. The United States Housing Authority, established under FDR’s New Deal programs developed one of the very first projects in Austin, TX.  And as I mentioned in Part 1 about redlining in San Diego, LBJ was crucial in developing Redlining projects through the development of public housing for Whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans (video explains very well the forced migration of African-Americans to a designated ghetto area of Austin.)

3. The FHA (Federal Housing Authority) was instrumental in advancing segregation through its ability to subsidized housing developments, but only if the homes in the development were sold to White people. Now you understand why Veteran Eugene Burnett was denied purchasing a home in a newly developed subdivision in Levitton, New York. Since the stated policy of the FHA was that inharmonious racial groups “should not be permitted to live in the same communities.” This policy and/or edict meant that loans to African-Americans could not and would not be insured. (Now if you are a bank would the bank loan money to someone if there was no chance of a return on principle if the owner walked away. When I purchased my home under FHA, I paid a premium to the bank which was their way of insuring their loan. Once my home equity reached a certain level the premium was eliminated. The bank then knew that selling my home would guarantee them getting their $$$ back.

Governments throughout the country jumped on the bandwagon to approve restrictive deeds such as those in Levitton, NY. These restrictive deeds were okayed by judges stating that they did not violate the U.S. Constitution, because the sales were between private parties.

These policies explain why African-Americans such as my father, P. Frank Freeman, or Eugene Burnett, even as veterans, had to make a substantial down payment (50% or $10,000 in my father’s case with a higher interest rate 7.5% because the loans could not be insured) by the FHA. This is the reason my father wrote , “my white working companions were able to buy new homes on the market at 4% interest or $0 down for White veterans).

Stacking of materials for the construction of the house at 5217 Roswell

However, my father was one of the lucky ones, he was able to get a mortgage mainly I believe because his income was based upon his job with Convair. Most African-Americans could not buy homes because they could not get a mortgage. Instead they had to buy homes on contract. This is equivalent to buying a home on layaway/installments. The homeowner earned no equity in the home. Sell the home you don’t get any money back, that is why many African-Americans were stuck in the neighborhoods where their homes were located. This is why governments allowed industries to be built next to African-American owned homes. They couldn’t move out and if they did, they lost all their money.

I have touched briefly upon why redlining came to the United States and in particular how it affected San Diego in general and my family in particular.  As all of you probably know, La Jolla is a very wealthy area of San Diego County.  But because of skin color my father, our multiracial family was denied participation. Watching the video “Segregated by Design,”  will inform you that at time marker 4:42, racial zoning aka redlining is fully explained, which I will not get into more deeply – that video does a very good job. But the term was coined because of the color coded map I showed in Part 1 of my post.

And now you know the rest of the story about redlining which was very much a part of San Diego’s history.

For African-Americans, the U.S. motto of the time was “Always needed, but never wanted.” – Buffalo Soldier Museum, Houston, TX

Back to Redlining in San Diego Part 1
Back to Elementary School – Grade 5 Part 4

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