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Open Access Publications from the University of California

'Alameda is our Home': African Americans and the Struggle for Housing in Alameda, California, 1860-present

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Creative Commons 'BY-NC' version 4.0 license

How has prejudice in the local and regional housing market impacted African Americans in the island city of Alameda, California? From the 19th century to present, developers, homeowners, landlords, policy-makers, and realtors have discriminated against African Americans who, in response, consistently wage battles for more affordable housing and inclusionary policies in Alameda. Prejudice realtors and developers restricted black renters and homeowners to the specific areas of the island prior to the Second World War. During and after the war, housing discrimination limited the majority of African Americans to temporary housing projects. Policies to redevelop project lands and direct the island’s future development intentionally exclude low-income renters and people of color. African Americans contest residential exclusion, build community by creating organizations and institutions, forge interracial alliances for open housing, and challenge exclusionary policies and practices. Recent efforts allegedly seeking to disperse poverty mask attempts to destabilize African American solidarity and claims for equality. The literature on African American migration to California and the East Bay typically focuses on larger municipalities like Berkeley, Oakland and Richmond, while neglecting smaller, inner suburban cities like Alameda. Using historical analysis, archival research and oral history of the residential experiences of African Americans in Alameda allows us to reconstruct communities that no longer exist, upset the geographical imagination of the city by demonstrating the historic presence and participation of non-white settlers and migrants, and finally shed light on wider patterns of displacement taking place in the recent and not so distant past.

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