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This is an interesting look back at the history of housing segregation in one city. Baltimore makes a fascinating study because it operated a three tier system: white, Jewish, and black, and because of its history as a border city with a complicated history of segregation.

Pietila walks you through the history of Baltimore's attempt to segregate itself via means both official and unofficial--from attempts at legislating segregation via ordinance to restrictive covenants and the existence of multiple MLS services (that continued through the 1970s). Neighborhoods were integrated via blockbusting, speculators, and through individual homeowners seeking better places to live. White flight, too, was both organized or prompted by speculators, and spontaneously generated through fear of financial loss.

The nature of Baltimore segregation ultimately pitted Jews against blacks--both because of the actions of non-Jewish white politicians and developers, and because Jews themselves took part in blockbusting, in discriminating against black homebuyers (and sometimes other Jews), and through the part Jewish middlemen played in enabling black homeowners to bypass banks and government institutions that would not help them buy.

The book isn't flawless--you can tell it was published by a small press and would have benefited from more editorial attention. However, Pietila spent 35 years at the Baltimore Sun, and does a good job of telling the story.
… (mere)
 
Markeret
arosoff | 3 andre anmeldelser | Jul 11, 2021 |
As he did in Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City, Pietila provides a wide-ranging, often anecdotal, history of Baltimore. This time his starting point if the life of Johns Hopkins, the Quaker merchant, who left most of his fortune to start the university that bears his name and a hospital. Before turning to those institutions, whose development started after Hopkins' death, we get an interesting not-quite-rags-to-riches story of how Hopkins made his fortune, interspersed with his views on slavery, race in general, and a few other topics. Once Hopkins is gone, the author provides lots of interesting details about the struggles to get both institutions established and some of the interesting players involved. But as he does in the other book I cited, Pietila's interests cover anything to do with Baltimore history, and he manages to take us on sidetracks (appropriate, given that the B&O railroad gets a lot of space in this book) into subjects that may or may not be closely related to Hopkins. These include grave robbing, which certainly Hopkins wouldn't have approved of, but those at the medical schools (there were several) of Baltimore turned a blind eye to. We also learn about Baltimore's red light district, its shifting populations (sort of a capsule version of his other book), and of course, this being Baltimore, political favors and corruption. No religion or ethnic group is spared here; just as a neighborhood may pass from wasp, to Jewish, to Eastern European, to black, so does corruption, except that in the area of corruption, there seems to have been more cooperation between the races. Baltimore's police department comes in for special scathing criticism, with numerous examples of not just taking a few payoffs to look the other way, but actually actively engaging in criminality. Dozens of personages pass through these pages, and Pietila knew some of the ones of the past fifty years quite well in his role as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun. Despite its rambling and somewhat disorganized presentation, this book is a real joy to read, because the author knows how to write and how to tell stories. Often, you'll find yourself googling some of the neighborhoods or buildings the author describes, many of which, this being Baltimore, still exist. From time to time, the story returns to its anchor, the university and hospital, and we see the disturbing symbiotic relationship between medical research, medical treatment, and the presence of a huge, underserved, unhealthy local population on these institutions' doorsteps. As Baltimore's other industries shut down, move away, or hollow out, the university, especially, is left as the city's biggest employer. And, I should add, the biggest recipient of US government dollars of any university--by quite a wide margin the last time I checked. Not a lot seems to trickle down, and despite some genuine efforts to rebuild deteriorating parts of the city, when gentrification comes, it only pushes the poor somewhere else. You don't have to love (or hate) Baltimore to enjoy this book. But if you are a student of history, or just someone who has been there and felt that there was something unique about the place, this book will help to show you why. Highly recommended.… (mere)
½
 
Markeret
datrappert | Jan 10, 2019 |
For some reason, I am fascinated by Baltimore. Any drive through streets of once proud but now vacant and crumbling stores, or a walk around Mount Vernon Square, Calvert Street, or environs reveals one of the most incredible collections of great, old architecture you could ask for. Not only that, but ventures into Baltimore's other regions reveal more delights--and horrors. But how did it get that way? This well-written book helps to explain why. It discusses in detail how Baltimore was desegregated neighborhood-by-neighborhood, only to have the presence of the first black homeowners trigger a tidal wave of white flight that was spurred on by real estate developers (blockbusters, actually) who were happy to pay panicked white families less than their property was worth and re-sell it at an inflated price (and with inflated weekly payment terms) to black families trying to find a better place for their kids. Meanwhile, as the city became more and more black, Baltimore County, protected by its own racist politicians, grew precipitously in size, but remained overwhelmingly white. This book depicts a collection of politicians, real estate tycoons (including Joseph Myerhoff, whose name graces the Baltimore Symphony's concert hall), numbers runners, civil rights campaigners, and folks just caught in the middle. It does it with style and with detail. Pietila often names specific house numbers where people moved, and given that it is Baltimore, most of them are still there. You'll find yourself putting down the book, perhaps too often, to take a stroll down a street using Google Maps. Some areas still look amazing. Baltimore is graced by numerous parks and lakes. Other areas have weird gaps and crumbling buildings where it looks like a grenade went off. In other places, things are getting better. There are few cities in America with the history or character of Baltimore. Its story is fascinating, and Pietila does a great job of portraying one aspect of it.… (mere)
 
Markeret
datrappert | 3 andre anmeldelser | Aug 22, 2018 |
This is a very well researched book about how race relations affected the demographics of Baltimore during the twentieth century.

I was first curious to read this book because I grew up in Baltimore, having been brought there by my parents in 1948 as an eight-month old infant and lived there through the time I left the city in 1968. I always lived in a mostly Jewish neighborhood, and never thought much about it. I just assumed that Jewish refugees of Nazi Germany who ended up living in Baltimore simply wanted to live near people they knew. What I didn't know for the entire time I lived in Baltimore was how race and religion were deeply embedded (even legally, in the beginning) in real estate sales. By this, I mean that blacks and Jews were actively prohibited from buying real estate in areas that were white and gentile. I also experienced firs-hand the white flight that took place among Jews when a black family would move into the neighborhood.

This book clarified for me the term redlining, in which real estate agents would color code single blocks on a Baltimore map to determine the price of a house by whether or not it was in a black or Jewish neighborhood rather than by the condition of the house. I was already familiar with the term blockbusting, but never knew that it had originally been against the law to do this (e.g. have a black family move into a white block or vice versa). Black families living in a neighborhood caused home price values to go down. Jewish families were considered just one step above black families in this respect.

I found the whole subject of this book mortifying. When I now return to Baltimore from the diverse community in which I currently live, I feel as if I'm entering a time warp. I pretty much agree with what the author learned from his research except that I don't agree with the author's premise at the end of the book. He basically intimated that because the "mutt" (biracial) Barack Obama, had been elected president in 2008, we entered in a new era of race relations. I would love for that to be true, but I don't believe we're anywhere close to that now nor will we be any time in the near future.
… (mere)
½
 
Markeret
SqueakyChu | 3 andre anmeldelser | Sep 23, 2017 |

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