Some Philadelphia Neighborhoods Are Walking a Line Between Boom and Bust [NextCity.org]

 

Meet Diane Richardson, achiever of the American dream. 

A Penn State graduate and the owner of a business that helps homeless veterans, Richardson followed a common trajectory for a child of the civil rights-era black middle class: She grew up in working-class neighborhoods alongside mostly black neighbors, and attended college, which was followed by a few years of working and saving while living with her parents. Then marriage and the search for a home of her own.

Like her parents, she migrated to places where she believed she could find a better life. By the time Richardson finished college in the 1960s, her parents had followed a familiar path of upward mobility from North Philadelphia to the city’s West Oak Lane section, a neighborhood that had been mostly white and Jewish, but was then filling with middle-class black homeowners. 

Once Richardson left the family home and struck out on her own, she and her husband, Ulysses, rented a house just to the west of her parents. The comfortable, middle-class neighborhood was called East Mount Airy.

Finally, in 1978, the couple bought their own home in the same 19150 Mount Airy ZIP code: a model house, in a tree-lined subdivision of moderne-style brick rowhouses built by a Jewish developer in the early 1950s, for $25,000. The Richardsons raised their daughter there.

Like many of their neighbors, the Richardsons moved to Mount Airy in search of a neighborhood where they could own a house with a yard alongside homeowners of all different backgrounds. That’s what she found at the outset. 

“There were a few [African-Americans] already there” when she bought her home, she recalls. “But it was 80 percent Caucasian. That was what attracted us to the block, we were going to be multicultural. But I guess when they saw more of us moving here, they fled. And in a two-year period, they ran like crazy.”

To read the full article by Sandy Smith, click here

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