Home Community VOICES ::: The Historic Redlining Underlying the Garfield High School Centennial :::

VOICES ::: The Historic Redlining Underlying the Garfield High School Centennial :::

By David Yamaguchi The North American Post

Before attending the Aug. 27 Garfield Centennial Celebration, my guess was that the event would be of interest to NAP readers. The reason is that while these pages do a reasonable job covering current news and World War II and its aftermath, the intervening period is only skimmed. It simply crosses our desks less often. The centennial presented an opportunity to make some amends.

1940: Nonwhites living in the Seattle Central District (CD), showing six heavily minority census tracts (shaded). Number denote percentages of the population, where 62 percent was the highest. The prominent east-west meridian running through all maps is Yesler Street. Garfield High School is four blocks north of it, about two-thirds of the way from Elliott Bay to Lake Washington.
1950: Blacks lived in the CD and south of it near noisy Boeing Field (King Co. International Airport).
1960: Blacks remained confined to the CD.
1970, Blacks began to spread out following passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, in the wake of national rioting following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. However, they mainly moved south, into the Rainier Valley lacking water views and toward noisy SeaTac Airport beyond it. High real estate prices continued to exclude them from north Seattle.

On attending, I knew that older Japanese Americans commonly attended Garfield. Examples we have covered lately include Manzanar nurse Natsuko (Yamaguchi) Chin, Rose (Kobata) Harrell (mother of Bruce Harrell, mayor), and Tomio Moriguchi (NAP publisher). By contrast, the children of that Nisei generation tended to attend more southerly schools. Examples in these pages include Tom Ikeda of Densho and 37th District Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (both Franklin H.S.), educator turned poet Larry Matsuda (Cleveland) and Terry Takeuchi of Terry’s Kitchen (Rainier Beach).

2020: Blacks continued to disperse southward, as skyrocketing property values, taxes and rents spurred gentrification. Completion of the light rail line crossing the city from south to north contributed to making city life more attractive and commuting by car less so. The Black population of the highest-density CD tract fell to 22 percent.

I knew that this pattern reflects redlining, discrimination in access to housing, before passage of the Fair Housing Act. But I had not known that where nonwhites could and could not live was so precisely demarcated until seeing the UW student-made maps of minority households by decade (above).

Detail showing high-density Black tracts in south King County. The lower cluster is SeaTac, near the airport of that name, where black households comprise 25, 29, 34 and 36 percent of the population.

One dense population of Blacks in south King County today is in SeaTac (lower right), where intense noise from northbound jets racing their engines close to the ground during takeoffs every two minutes is stressful. To hear what residents contend with, spend a half hour there checking out Seike Japanese Garden, in Highline SeaTac Botanical Garden (bring earplugs). You may not be able to withstand more.

The historic maps of redlining and its aftermath above run through nearly every issue of this paper. I hope to explore them further in the near future.

Index maps. Above: High schools map, where Rainier Beach is in green at lower right. Below, South King County showing SeaTac vicinity (Seike Garden in red). Google Maps

All figures:

University of Washington Libraries, “Seattle/King County: Mapping Race 1940 – 2020 — Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project” (online).            https://depts.washington.edu/civilr/segregation_maps.htm

The temporal spread of Asians through these same census tracts is similarly available and is a tale for another issue.

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David Yamaguchi is a third-generation Japanese American [Sansei]. He has written for the Post since 2006, at first as a volunteer, later as a paid freelancer. He joined the paper's staff in May 2020, when he began learning how articles flow from Word files through layout to social media.