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Community Roots: Selections from the Local Legacies Project
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James Stewart in his East Austin barbershop, 1999
James Stewart in the East Austin barbershop, Nov. 1999 Photo: Maria Sweeny

African American Neighborhoods in East Austin

At the end of the 20th century, Austin, Texas, is a boomtown, among the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. However, on the other side of I-35, within sight of the downtown, several predominantly African-American neighborhoods remain in disrepair, and the residents there have not benefited from the city's economic growth. Though residents have been trying for over two decades to follow through on plans to revitalize the area, the neighborhoods are marred by empty lots, boarded-up houses, and closed-down stores.

But residents of the area have mixed views on the prospect of economic development, fearing that increased taxes, property values, and gentrification will squeeze them out of their homes. Using photocopies of historic photographs, contemporary photographs and text, this project looks at the historic neighborhoods of Gregorytown, Robertson Hill, and Kealing, some of the first areas of Austin settled by African Americans following the Civil War. Austin's history, urban renewal and its effect on the residents, the legacy of segregation, and the continuity of the generations are examined. Austin is still divided by race, separated in white, Hispanic, and African American neighborhoods. Although in theory forbidden by law, segregation is still a day-to-day reality for East Austin's black residents.

Originally submitted by: Lloyd Doggett,Representative (10th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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