T. M. Berry Project: Berry and the Fight for Fair Housing in Cincinnati, Part 3

By Laura Laugle

All these delays caused one huge problem: members who had been in need of homes back in 1947 found housing before homes could be built for them at Hollydale in the mid to late 1950s. The result was an enormous expense for the Cedar Grove Homestead Association, which had to refund many of its original members’ investments. Gail Berry remembers her father going to Cedar Grove meetings and to the building site at Hollydale in Springfield Township many times during her childhood. Fortunately, as Berry points out in the article to the right, this type of persistence paid off and the association managed to build a safe and stable community for Cincinnati’s black residents.

Approximately 200 homes were built in the subdivision in the middle part of the 20th century. Thanks to the efficiency of the building techniques used, the homes in Hollydale were relatively affordable. However, the people who ended up settling there were the same people who could afford to wait for houses to be built to his/her specifications and who generally had steady if not large incomes. At first glance then, it would seem that Hollydale would have had little effect on the massive overpopulation problems in Cincinnati’s low income black neighborhoods. However, this is one instance (of only a few) where “trickle down” economics seems to apply beautifully. People moving to Hollydale cleared up at least a little space in the basin of the city which, when combined with additional new housing projects like Park Town, Garden Hill and Richmond Village for which Berry acted as counsel and others like Laurel Homes and Lincoln Court eventually created enough housing to relieve much of the congestion plaguing poor black neighborhoods.

Plat Map of Hollydale

In this way the public housing projects could be deemed successful. But in much the same way that projects did in the early part of the 20th century, the outpouring of blacks from the slums and into public housing served to further segregate the city. White residents panicked when a few blacks moved into their previously all white neighborhoods, making them prime targets for the “block busting” techniques used by unscrupulous real estate agents to make quick money at the expense of their clients. The neighborhood of Evanston for example had a total population of 12,261 people in 1950, 968 of whom were black. By 1960 the total population had increased to 13,740 and the black population had ballooned to 10,278. The percentage leap for the black population in Evanston during that decade is staggering; it went from 7.9% to 74.8% but white flight made it difficult to maintain a racially integrated neighborhood for any length of time.

With a few exceptions, these distinct “black neighborhoods” and “white neighborhoods” remained mostly intact for the remaining 20th century. Today however, Cincinnati is seeing a significant increase in the number of its of integrated communities. According to a study conducted using census data through the year 2000, Fritz Casey-Leininger of Casey-Leininger Research found that there were twenty one communities in the city of Cincinnati which were considered integrated (for the purposes of this study, the term “integrated” was defined as having a black population of between 10% and 60% and a dissimilarity index of less than 65.) Of those twenty one neighborhoods, eleven maintained integrated status from 1980, indicating that these were not merely neighborhoods in transition from white to black but were stably integrated. The most notable of these neighborhoods are Corryville, East Walnut Hills, Fairview-Clifton Heights, North Avondale-Paddock Hills and University Heights; none of which had black/white population changes of 10% or more from 1980 to 2000.

While Cincinnati’s history of segregation in housing does seem depressing and we know that there is still much work to be done in restoring buildings and minds, we can console ourselves with the fact that, thanks to the hard work of Theodore M. Berry and others like him, the city’s black residents were able to find decent homes in the mid-20th century and that things are presently looking up in the way of integrating many of Cincinnati’s communities.

For more information on what you’ve read here and in the first two parts of this blog series, please consult Springfield Township’s website and Casey-Leininger Research studies: “Stable Integrated Communities” and “Going Home: The Struggle for Fair Housing in Cincinnati”

In 2010, the University of Cincinnati Libraries received a $61,287 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of the Archives and Records Administration to fully process the Theodore M. Berry Collection in the Archives & Rare Books Library.  All information and opinions published on the Berry project website and in the blog entries are those of the individuals involved in the grant project and do not reflect those of the National Archives and Records Administration.  We gratefully acknowledge the support of NARA.