Fort Worth, TX – 1950

 

Arrived from California, age 8.

New apt. All dirt yard, no plants, no grass, no friends.

My first friend and I had the same first name and same age.

He was black and I wasn’t. We’d meet at the chain link fence behind our building.

The fence separated us and our neighborhoods. He called his “Como.”

I didn’t know the name of mine.

We didn’t go to same school. We could only meet at the fence.

We shared bubble gum and baseball cards.

Neither one of us was allowed to cross to the other side.

One day, my dad told me to stop hanging around at the fence.

He didn’t mention the other boy.

My father never spoke ill of others who were different from us. Not out loud at least.

I decided later that he was trying to protect me from consequences that I didn’t understand, like the time he yelled and grabbed me at the Sears-Roebuck before I could touch the drinking fountain labeled “Colored.”

Dad saw it all as just business thing. The developers couldn’t get loans from the government to build houses that were in or near bad areas.

That fence, though, has been a stone in my shoe for a very long time. And I’ve not resolved the question of whether I’d felt then that I was being kept out of Como, or that the Como folks were being kept in.

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Fort Worth, TX – 1950-53

I. Brother’s memories

II. Sister’s memories from Mother’s comments about time in FW

Texas was a legally segregated then.

The Como neighborhood is still predominately POC @ 80%+

Texas was big on history in school and I learned a lot about Texas history and Art history.

Nothing was said then about the plot between slave-owning settlers from the Southern US colluding with US politicians to return Texas to the US as a slave state after Mexico outlawed slavery. Remember the Alamo, as it turned out, was a Tonkin Gulf.

I. The installation of race barriers in Miami as elsewhere was incentivized in the time of the New Deal and afterward by federal housing agencies, mortgage lenders, local planning and zoning boards, and real-estate interests looking to attract white clientele; public institutions and private actors have created and sustained segregation in American neighborhoods through multiple means since the early 20th century, including zoning laws, redlining, restrictive covenants, block busting, contract selling, predatory lending, and many more. 14 Walls, fences, and barricades solidify the social conditions brought about by such policies. Under pretexts of traffic control, crime prevention, and protection of property values, municipalities from Florida to New York to California continue, into the present century, to block streets along Black-white neighborhood borders — and in so doing to further harden racial divisions, facilitate police intimidation, and force Black residents to take circuitous routes to get to work and school and to fulfill other daily needs.

 

Image: “Posted No Trespassing Keep Out” sign in the Como neighborhood of Fort Worth, part of the “Ridglea Wall,” ca. 1969. [University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, via license CC BY-NY 4.0]

 

II. In Fort Worth, Texas, a ten-block barbed-wire-topped fence (again built in the late 1940s) similarly impeded movement for African-American residents of the Como neighborhood, whose nearest grocery store and public library were on the other side, in the Ridglea district; this lasted into the 1970s, when the city allowed road access at a few points. “All our doctors and dentists and shops are over there in Ridglea and it does inconvenience us,” a Como resident is quoted as saying in an article from 1969. 32 Community members “dug a hole, so you wouldn’t have to walk so far around,” recalled another neighbor in a 2010 documentary. “We’d go down to the hole and slip under there.” 33

 

III. Ridglea Wall Records

Due to a 1947 city ordinance, all east-west streets of the Como neighborhood terminated at Guilford Road (renamed Bryant-Irvin Road). The Ridglea Addition was developed west of Guilford Road and included the Ridglea Country Club, commercial establishments, and multifamily dwellings. Two apartment complexes were built along Guilford Road, which were enclosed by chain link fences and concrete parking garages.  The apartment boundary became known as the Ridglea Wall, in that it separated the Ridglea neighborhood from the Como neighborhood, preventing pedestrian and automobile access. In 1969, at the urging of Dr. Eck Prud’homme, the Fort Worth City Council mandated a plan for removing sections of the wall and adding connecting streets and pathways between the Como and Ridglea neighborhoods.1.