Segregation in Seattle
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While Seattle is probably the furthest place in the continental United States from where the Civil Rights movement is typically associated, typically the Deep South, segregation and racial prejudices affected the northwest just as much as it did other regions in the United States.
Before World War II, Seattle’s population was predominantly Caucasian. After the war, Seattle’s population increased by about 100,000 people, from all over the country, causing many neighborhoods and schools to go up in numbers and diversity ). As the number of people increased so did the need of new school buildings. While Seattle in the later years—the 1960s through 1980s—made strides to accommodate decisions like the Brown vs. Board of Education, things like White flight made it difficult to fully integrate schools because of the de facto segregation happening in the communities.
As a result, African-Americans in Seattle were concentrated into one area which was labeled The Central District. It was here that a majority of the black population lived and went to school. In the 1960s, Seattle was home to only nine black schools in The Central District, and almost 100 white schools on outside parts of town. On March 31 and April 1, 1966 thousands of Seattle Public School students boycotted the Central District in search for equality in the school systems. Many believed that the problems in the schools stemmed from almost 10,000 students being pushed into a limited amount of space. These locations were often underfunded and understaffed which resulted in poor test schools and low graduation rates. The number of protesters soon grew, including thousands of white students, and three public school teachers. The outpouring support for the issue forced the Seattle School Board to grant the public with a real solution to the problem. Today, Seattle recognizes this protest as the Seattle Public Schools Boycott of 1966
Segregation was also found in the Seattle neighborhood hospitals that refused treatment to African Americans. For example, if a black patient wanted treatment at Providence Hospital they would need to pay for a private room. Swedish Medical Center used the statement: “will not receive Negroes at this time.” While Virginia Mason Nursing school wrote: “In regards to our policy, we do not accept Negroes, Japanese, etc.”
While de jure segregation enforced by law is no longer practiced, Seattle remains a highly racially segregated city. This is both from the aftermath of legalized segregation and the result of a continued practice of de facto segregation.
- Neighborhoods Southeast Seattle Community History Project. Southeast Seattle Schools: World War II to Present. by Mikala Woodward
- "Segregated Seattle." Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project <http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/segregated.htm>.