Slave Quarters are The Origin of Housing Projects and Slave Plantations are The Origin of The Prison industrial Complex …

slave quarters were not the ideal environment to live or grow up, cabins were small, damp, some with dirt floors, walls of sparsely put together planks and most with thatched roofs of straw or stalks from the sugar cane harvest. In the winter families huddled together in front of the makeshift hearth, which combined to heat, cook; temper water for cleaning, and bathing. The restroom facilities were no more than a community hole in the ground covered by a rickety and hastily put up shack, not so much for privacy but to shelter its users from harsh weather.

The cabin was not the best of living conditions, but provided a haven from the stark realities of slavery’s cruel treatment, and the degradation of human conditions. Most times the cabin had only one large room that served as living room, dining room, and bedrooms, sometimes shared by more than one family…




Regina Gardner


Some would like to have the black people in America believe they are the sole causes of their less than ideal circumstances; that they are people of inferior intelligence who are incapable of guiding and/or governing themselves. However, once American history is critically analyzed, it becomes clearer to see how some of its black citizens wound up poor, frustrated, and effectively trapped in dire situations. The purpose of this article is not to cast blame or make excuses for this societal problem, but to highlight the factual events that led directly to the development of the “urban ghetto” and the “ghettoization” of other African-American communities over time.

The End of Slavery: Working to Build a New Life — Immediately after the Civil War from 1865 – 1920, African-Americans began leaving the South and relocating to various regions of the country. Many moved to lands in and around Native American territories (present-day Oklahoma). During this time, they created over 50 identifiable towns and settlements. These settlements were cohesive, prosperous farming communities that supported businesses, schools, and churches. Entrepreneurs in these communities started every kind of business imaginable, including newspapers, which advertised invitations for more settlers throughout the South. They considered this region to be their “promised land” because they were able to live there free from the prejudice and brutality found in communities of the Midwest and the South. African-American communities sprouted and flourished in this new territory, even after 1907, when Oklahoma became a state. The immediate passage of Jim Crow laws by the new Oklahoma legislature caused some African-Americans to become disillusioned and move on to new settlements in Canada, Africa and Mexico. However, there were many blacks who remained, despite ever-increasing interferences from whites who repeatedly undercut the growth of prospering black towns. As early as 1911 neighboring whites attempted to block black migration out of the area and force African-Americans into mixed, but racially segregated communities where they would be incapable of supporting themselves. White farmers signed oaths pledging to never rent, lease, or sell land to African-Americans. Whites also developed agreements to prevent the hiring of black labor (O’Dell, 2009).

Surviving the Difficult Years — During the 1920s and 1930s most of these black communities were declining due to several factors: (1) the Great Depression caused many blacks to migrate to western and northern regions of the country, (2) African-American towns became isolated by the failure of many railroad companies, and (3) during the lean years, whites would not extend credit African-Americans, creating an almost impossible situation for black farmers and businesses to overcome. There are thirteen of these all-black towns that continue to survive today, despite the insurmountable odds against them during the early 20th century (O’Dell, 2009).

The Perfect Recipe for Creating a Ghetto: From Slavery to Freedom

1st Ingredient: Black Codes — Southern states began passing “Black Codes” immediately after the Civil War (in 1865 and 1866) with the intent and effect of restricting African-Americans‘ freedom, and compelling them to work in a labor economy based on low wages or debt.

2nd Ingredient: Restrictive Covenants — Between 1910 – 1930, another wave of approximately1.6 million African-Americans migrated from the rural South to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West as part of the first phase of the “Great Migration”. By this time, Jim Crow laws were becoming firmly established across the country, making it virtually impossible for African-Americans to pursue the American dream, no matter where they lived. Let’s take the Midwest town of Ferguson, Missouri for example. It is the suburban town just outside of St. Louis, Missouri that recently garnered sensationalized media attention for the police killing of Michael Brown. In Ferguson, as in most other towns and cities across America, the establishment of racially restrictive covenants led to “racial zoning”. Racially restrictive covenants refer to contractual agreements that prohibited the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property by a particular group of people, usually African-Americans. Racially restrictive covenants were not only mutual agreements between property owners in a neighborhood not to sell to certain people, but were also agreements enforced through the cooperation of real estate boards and neighborhood associations. Racially restrictive covenants became common after 1926 when the U.S. Supreme Court decision, Corrigan v. Buckley, validated their use (Rothstein, 2014).

St. Louis appointed its first City Planning Commission in 1911 and hired Harland Bartholomew as its full-time planning engineer in 1916. His job was to examine every building in the city and determine into which “racial zone” it should be placed and to invent ways to prevent blacks from moving into white neighborhoods. Neighborhoods with homes whose deeds excluded the sale or resale of property to blacks were put into the “first residential zoning category” which prohibited construction of multifamily, commercial, or industrial buildings. The Bartholomew Commission’s first zoning ordinance adopted in 1919 only designated zones for industrial development in or near neighborhoods with black people (Rothstein, 2014).

As restrictive covenants and zoning rules barred the growing African-American population from most areas of the city and county in the early and mid-20th century, black ghettos formed on the north and northwest sides of the city. These areas became increasingly isolated, overcrowded, and run down. African-American neighborhoods were not only zoned to permit industries that brought pollution, but also taverns, liquor stores, nightclubs, and houses of prostitution were allowed. However, these businesses were considered violations of zoning ordinances in white residential areas. City services like trash collection, street lighting, and emergency response were less adequate than in white neighborhoods (Rothstein, 2014).

3rd Ingredient: Discrimination in Banking & Insurance Industries — The real estate and banking industries also played important roles in keeping St. Louis County separate and unequal. For most of the 20th century, banks routinely and openly practiced “redlining”—refusing mortgages or home improvement loans to African Americans in predominantly white as well as black neighborhoods. Insurance companies likewise refused to serve African-Americans in redlined areas or where restrictive covenants were broken (Rothstein, 2014).

African-Americans paid higher rents than whites for similar space – about 25 percent more, according to one postwar estimate – because their demand for apartments, relative to supply, was greater and because less adequate city fire protection led to higher insurance rates for landlords. To make the higher rent payments, black families took in boarders, or subdivided and sublet their homes or apartments, which exacerbated the overcrowding. As a result, rooming houses sprung up to accommodate the overcrowded black population. Because they were considered less desirable properties, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), established during the New Deal, deemed the rooming houses ineligible for mortgage guarantees. With higher housing costs, African-Americans with good jobs were less able to save than were whites with similar incomes – reduced savings made leaving the ghetto nearly impossible (Rothstein, 2014).

4th Ingredient: White Fear of Integration – The irony is that when white people turned to observe the black ghetto, they concluded that slum conditions were the natural characteristics of black families, and not a result of a long history of black codes, Jim Crow laws, and institutional racism. A prime example of similar attitudes can be shown in the statements of Nevada rancher, Cliven Bundy. Mr. Bundy states, “…The Negro… {sits} in front of {their} government houses {with} the door… open and… there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom (Your Black World, 2014).” Bundy’s misguided statements are a direct contradiction to the historical facts. Yes, blacks got their freedom on paper in 1865, however it was summarily overturned within THAT SAME YEAR with the passage of black codes! WE HAVE BEEN SUBVERSIVELY FIGHTING THE CIVIL WAR since 1861, and I would argue that IT DID NOT officially end until 1965! Heck! We’re still fighting for the CONFEDERATE FLAG to come down in 2015; and all of them STILL haven’t come down! Yet, observing blacks in their impoverished condition, certainly serves to reinforce some white people’s fear of racial integration; simultaneously creating the most powerful force within this VICIOUS CIRCLE. The case is being made here that governmental policies DO INDEED bear some responsibility for fueling white people’s fears of integration (Rothstein, 2014).

A century of evidence demonstrates that Ferguson, Missouri was ruled by public policies that discriminated by race in public housing, mortgage financing, real estate, insurance industries, and the local job market (Rothstein, 2014). The same narrative of Ferguson has played itself out in countless black communities across the United States.

Since the time of our founding fathers, we Americans have proven ourselves capable of solving major problems that threaten our national interests, time and time again. However, institutional racism and white supremacy are admittedly very tough problems to solve; especially in recent years where leadership across the board has been sorely lacking and political correctness has put a gag order on many useful ideas. This article however, chronicles documented facts of history to bring the topics of “institutional racism” and “ghettoization” into a much clearer context. It is a well-documented fact that the system of institutional racism actually CREATED THE PREVALANCE of the urban ghetto. It is a shame in today’s society that people, who’ve benefited from the system of white supremacy, still turn to blame the victims, i.e. Dylann Roof of the 2015 Charleston Massacre.

A century of evidence proves that African-Americans were legally barred from improving their circumstances with regard to housing, jobs, and education. And every time they challenged the legal and social systems of their day, they did so by risking their very lives, i.e. political organizer S.S. Mincey, James Meredith of Ole Miss, July Perry of the Ocoee Massacre, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers, and David Walker of Hickman, Kentucky. But then I ask wherein lies the blame with regards to THESE BLACK MEN and OTHER BLACK PEOPLE?

In keeping with the Christopher Pike quote, “‎When you point your finger at someone, you simultaneously point three fingers back at yourself ”. As a black person, I feel that it’s only fair that I arduously search for the part that black people played in perpetuating the system of white supremacy. I sincerely want to know, because I want to take responsibility for my part, or even my ancestor’s part in it. I ask myself, “Did the relatives of David Walker in Hickman, Kentucky contribute to the perpetuation of institutional racism and white supremacy by NOT avenging his death, and NOT giving a second go at retrieving his property?” Did the survivors of the Ocoee Massacre contribute by NOT fighting to their deaths? Did some blacks contribute by subsequently becoming head-bowing, compliant, “shuck & jivers”, who accepted their lots in life as poor and disenfranchised? Which brings to mind how we laugh and speak pridefully in “ghetto” conversations about how we learned to “nigga-rig” this or that. Should we enjoy our bonding time as we collectively share pride in the way we’ve survived? …or should we have refused to lower our standards? But then again… whose standards? …slave standards? …or white society standards? Have some blacks contributed over this past century by allowing themselves to be gradually lulled into a mindset of self-deprecation and self-loathing?

My answer to this final question is “yes”, regardless of the unconscious and passive nature of our participation, it is participation, nonetheless. Over the course of the lives of every African-American person born, if they have chosen to hang their heads and accept the status quo of white supremacy, then they were willing contributors; knowingly or unknowingly. For example, there were times in the life of Malcolm Little wherein he acted out the will of white supremacy with self-defeating behaviors. However, there were also times in the life of Malcolm X wherein he sacrificed his life in an effort to eliminate white supremacy in the lives of black people. White supremacy loved Malcolm Little and was able to flourish unchecked in HIS presence. However, white supremacy HATED Malcolm X, but it suffered everlasting damage due to the unselfish LOVE he first showed for his people; and later, his love of all people.

Once the parties to this atrocious generational curse clean their respective sides of the street by owning their culpabilities, we can begin to aggressively dismantle the structures of institutional racism, to stop the bleeding of our wounded nation. Maybe that time is now. I just know that continually blaming the oppressor is in no way an appropriate solution for ending racial divisiveness and discrimination in America today, but neither is blaming the victim.


Haki Kweli Shakur 9-13-51ADM August Collective NAPLA NAIM