In Austin, Blacks Are Becoming History

When you think of Austin, Texas you probably think of a few things: South By Southwest, the Congress Avenue Bats, Austin City Limits, and the University of Texas. Here’s something most don’t think of, Black History. Austin was home to the Austin Black Senators, a Negro League Baseball team. Austin is also home to Huston-Tillotson University, a Historically Black College, established in 1875, making it older than the state’s signature university.

 

This all just scratches the surface of the history that Blacks have in Texas’ capitol city. But today, the influence and representation of Blacks seems to be closer to the end than the beginning. Texas has the fourth largest Black population in the country. Still, how many Blacks sit on Austin’s City Council? One. How many Blacks are on the Board of Directors of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce? There are only five, out of the chamber’s roughly 45 members.

 

The only Black member of the City Council and one of the Chamber Board of Directors, come from District 1. District 1 houses much of Austin’s Black residents and is home to many of the city’s Black owned businesses, community centers, and places of worship. This is no accident, but is a result of the city’s 1928 plan, calling for Blacks to be moved from Austin’s center to its east side.

 

Post WWII, Blacks built a good life on the east side, but now the grandchildren of those who built homes and businesses in East Austin during the 50s and 60s, live in the neighboring suburbs. Why? After being forced to the East Side and then crowded by other minorities, Blacks have come under attack as gentrification has set much of the area in its sights. Gentrification has increased both the property values in East Austin and the number of those with resources who want a piece of the city’s more historically colorful side, making the price of living there too rich for the blood that helped build it.

 

In February, Austin ISD announced its plan to close several of its schools, and guess which schools are likely on the chopping block? Yep, schools in East Austin. We just finished celebrating this nation’s Black History, but sadly, in one the nation’s more “progressive” cities, Blacks are becoming just that, history.

Cornell Woolridge is the founder and President of CivicSolve, LLC. He's been an active proponent of increasing access and lowering the barrier to civic engagement for even longer with his increasing involvement in numerous political campaigns, as well as down right boots on the ground protesting. He currently resides in Austin, Texas with his Wife Candace and their dog Jack; where he is continuing to expand CivicSolve's future projects and provide his own personal insight along the way.