Remembering the infamous red line of ‘Segregated Seattle’

Every year during February’s Black History Month since we first ran the story in 2014, our report on the history of neighborhood segregation around Capitol Hill and the Central District is one of the most-searched articles on the CHS site.

“In 1927, a small group of white homeowners on Capitol Hill had a problem,” it begins,  “How to keep the Central District’s black population corralled to the ‘ghetto’ south of Madison.”

You can read the full story here:

#blacklivesmatter: A look at the covenants on Capitol Hill

It is not a comfortable read:

In 2006, a group of University of Washington students discovered 126 covenants covering thousands of properties all over Seattle. The trove of documents reveals a shameful truth of Capitol Hill’s not-too-distant past: it was once neighborhood policy to keep the Central District black in order to keep Capitol Hill white.

In March, the Museum of History and Industry and the Northwest African American Museum are organizing a series of walks starting at 19th and Madison’s Mt. Zion and traveling “along the infamous ‘red line,’ hallmark of racial inequity and housing segregation in Seattle.” The first two Segregated Seattle: Walk the Infamous Red Line are already sold out but you can watch the event’s Facebook page for updates about more opportunities to attend.

Next week, the Central District’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute will host a Wednesday-night screening and panel discussion of A Central Vision, a 30-minute documentary film by Inye Wokoma and the City of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Development that “looks at the history of the Central Area, current plans and policies addressing the rapid growth and change in the neighborhood, and the future stake of long-time residents.”

Sorry, Andrew Jackson, Seattle should rename its street named after you

In 1986, Ron Sims, the first black person to be a member of the King County Council, introduced a motion to repair his county’s recognition of history by changing its namesake from an obscure, pre-Civil War United States vice president and slaveholder to civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. The motion passed, barely, 5-4. With history’s twists as knotted as ever this Presidents’ Day 2017, CHS wonders if another namesake change is in order.

Today, Jackson Street runs from the Central District to the International District and honors the nation’s seventh president, Andrew Jackson:

King Street was named by David Maynard in his 1853 Plat of the Town of Seattle, one of the first three plats laying out the street grid. (The other two plats, north of Maynard’s, were filed by Carson Boren and Arthur Denny). Maynard, a staunch Democrat, named many of the streets in his plat for Democratic leaders, including Andrew Jackson, John B. Weller (Governor of California), and Joseph Lane (Oregon Territory’s Congressional delegate).

As was William Rufus Devane King, Jackson was also a slaveholder. Beyond his battlefield prowess, he is remembered for The Indian Removal Act. His populism and, apparently, temper have also become a historical model for the Trump administration. Continue reading

Rainbows in Pike/Pine, RBG in the CD, Seattle’s ‘community crosswalk’ roll-out continues

20th and Yesler (Images: CHS)

20th and Yesler (Images: CHS)

In the same way Pike/Pine’s rainbow crosswalks let you know you’re walking someplace special, the Central District’s new Pan-African Red, Black, Green crosswalks tell a story about the area’s history and culture.

CHS toured a few of the intersections where the new “community crosswalks” have been installed Thursday to see what the new and improved design looks like on the street. Continue reading

RBG The CD — City Hall unveils new Central District community crosswalk

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A symbol of the Central District’s black history — and present — was formalized Saturday morning as SDOT replicated in a $7,500 paint job what the community did with spray cans and inspiration this summer.

Saturday, Mayor Ed Murray was on hand along with residents and members of RBG The CD to unveil a new community crosswalk in the Pan-African red, green, and black colors crossing MLK at Powell Barnett Park.

Angel Mitchell, whom in his brief address before the ceremonial first crossing Murray was first to thank for her work to make the community crosswalk happen, said the colors of the crosswalk are part of remembering the neighborhood’s past as the community works toward the future.

“The crosswalks symbolize the history of the Central District,” she said.
Continue reading

Seattle U tackles State of the Black Union with Moral Mondays panel

tumblr_o1io3pFlbQ1u8txhwo1_500The February 1st kickoff to Black History Month falls on the anniversary of a watershed moment in U.S. history: The day in 1865 President Abraham Lincoln signed the resolution proposing the 13th Amendment to outlaw slavery.

An ongoing student initiative at Seattle University called Moral Mondays will honor National Freedom Day with a slate of speakers Monday night, including former City Council District 3 candidate Pamela Banks. According to organizers, The State of the Black Union will be a wide-ranging conversation on the issues facing Seattle’s African/African American community. Here is the speaker lineup:

Brian Surrat, Director, City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development
Gerald Hankerson, President, NAACP Seattle/King County
Hon. J. Wesley Saint Clair, King County Superior Court Judge
Pamela Banks, President & CEO, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle
Rahwa Habte, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods
Harvey Drake Jr., Pastor, Emerald City Bible Fellowship; Founder & President, Urban Impact
Steve Sneed, Managing Artistic Director at Seattle Center

Those interested in attending the free event are asked to RSVP at On February 8th the group will be holding a memorial and peace walk for Trayvon Martin at the Capitol Hill campus and a “pilgrimage” to the Central District on February 15th. Continue reading