In the long years between the end of slavery and the passage of 1968’s Civil Rights Act, most African Americans found that while they had their liberty, they were still confined—to separate and definitely unequal places to live, eat, study, and work. Yet many of those communities, defined by oppression, still managed to develop a rich cultural life of their own.
Today, of course, people have the right to live anywhere they want in America. At the same time, urban growth is pushing a new generation of residents to consider neighborhoods that were previously deemed undesirable. And many of those historically black enclaves have a lot going for them: old-fashioned charm, a sense of community, history, and some architectural gems.
A surprising number of them also have connections to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So to help commemorate the slain civil rights leader, let’s peruse the pages of history and check out some homes—and neighborhoods—that have stood the test of time.
Collier Heights was one of the first communities in the country developed by black planners for their own people, who in 1940s Atlanta were being pushed aside by white residents. So a group of African American private investors quietly bought up land on what was then the outskirts of town, rounded up more financing from the country’s largest black-owned banks, and brought in black architects to design new custom homes.
Eventually, Collier Heights became home to a who’s who of black Atlanta—including Martin Luther King Sr. and his wife. In 2009, the neighborhood, which has maintained much of its character, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Like many other homes in this neighborhood on the market, this five-bedroom home (listed at $320,000) is classic midcentury modern on the outside, and thoroughly 21st century on the inside. All three bathrooms have been remodeled, as has the kitchen, which boasts granite countertops, custom cabinets, and new appliances, according to the listing.
There’s also a smart home system and energy-efficient windows. Out back, a new deck extends pretty much the length of the home, and there’s plenty of space between you and the neighbors—the lot is 0.37 acres.
South and west of New Orleans’ famed French Quarter, Central City just barely brushes the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which sheltered thousands of desperate residents in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit the city in 2005. But long before that, the neighborhood played a significant role in the civil rights movement—the younger King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference here in 1957.
It was a fitting place for his mission of racial harmony: The area was first occupied by a mix of immigrants and free black people in the years after the Civil War. It’s had its ups and downs since then, but lately, things have been looking up for this centrally located district.
Cute shops and restaurants have popped up here, and in 2017, the National Main Street Center bestowed its Great American Main Street Award on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, which runs through the lower part of Central City.
For even more historic flavor, this two-bedroom condo in a 1914 building has original fireplaces and millwork throughout, plus custom built-ins with marble tops and lighting. The kitchen has been stylishly updated, and the full bathroom features a claw-foot tub underneath a chandelier.
The 12-foot ceilings and extra-large windows and doorways let plenty of light flow throughout the space, and if you want to go farther and enjoy the fresh air, there’s a peaceful patio garden and a massive front porch. The lot is 6,050 square feet.
Bonus: You’re just a couple of blocks from the historic streetcar line that runs through the nearby Garden District. It’s listed at $317,000.
Chicago absorbed many of the black migrants who fled oppression in the South en masse starting around 1915 and continuing until 1970. Because of racially restrictive housing policies, or redlining, most ended up settling in the city’s South Side.
Bronzeville, relatively close to the lakefront and to downtown Chicago, emerged as a hub of black culture whose vibrancy rivaled the Harlem Renaissance of the 1910s to 1940s.
A tour of the neighborhood will bring you past the former homes of Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, boxer Joe Louis, and the journalist and civil rights advocate Ida B. Wells-Barnett.
King visited Chicago several times in the mid-1960s to campaign against the city’s segregated public school system, and he used Bronzeville’s Liberty Baptist Church as his headquarters for meetings and rallies.
The neighborhood declined during the postwar period, but today, a new generation of African American young professionals has rediscovered the area, which still has many stately historic homes on large lots.
This three-bedroom townhouse dates to 1910, but inside its walls, everything is brand-new, thanks to a gut renovation.
The sleek, stylish interior includes hardwood floors throughout, an open kitchen with quartz countertops, walk-in shower in the master bathroom, a walk-in master closet, and a huge deck out back for entertaining. All that for $294,000!
The property is close to Lake Shore Drive, Interstate Highway 94, and public transportation, for a quick commute to downtown.
The former Lorraine Motel, where King was fatally shot, now anchors a sprawling, Smithsonian-affiliated civil rights museum that sits in the middle of the lively South Main Historic District.
The district is on the National Register, but developers have still been able to push through projects like the 103-year-old Central Station, which was converted into a lavish hotel—at an estimated cost of over $50 million. Warehouses scattered throughout the neighborhood have been converted into condos.
This two-bed, two-bath condo in a 1912 building showcases industrial modern style with its exposed brick and wooden beams, and an open layout. The building also has a rooftop deck with views of the Mississippi River. It’s listed at $270,000.
Kansas City’s affection for King was called into question in late 2019. Earlier that year, a historic boulevard in the city was renamed for the civil rights leader. But then in November, voters overwhelmingly decided to revert to the original name, The Paseo. It wasn’t a simple issue: Some residents said the first retitling was erasing the history of a street whose very name was synonymous with black success.
The Paseo runs through a section of the city where blacks were forced to cluster during segregation, and was home to several niches of affluent homes, including the West Paseo neighborhood.
Another such neighborhood was Beacon Hill. Although it went through a period of urban blight, today there are enough multimillion-dollar development projects in the works to make longtime residents apprehensive about the changes that gentrification, which is well underway, will bring.
This lovely and spacious four-bedroom home, built in 1900, is a prime example of the changing times. Although it’s listed at $249,500, just two years ago the property was assessed at $7,796. But those who can afford the upcharge can take advantage of the updated kitchen with new appliances and quartz countertops, and a flexible layout. If the 4,008-square-foot lot doesn’t provide enough room to roam, Troost Lake Park is just a half-block away.
Denver may not be the first city that comes to mind when you think of King’s legacy, but the pioneering preacher visited the city’s Park Hill neighborhood in 1964, when it was ground zero in the fight for fair housing and public school integration. But unlike many other areas, the white residents of Park Hill did not flee to the suburbs when black families started to move in. Instead, a coalition of residents, old and new, worked to integrate the neighborhood.
Today, Park Hill is a diverse neighborhood with Victorian, Arts and Crafts, and midcentury modern homes on tree-lined streets. South Park Hill was named the No. 1 neighborhood in Denver by Niche, a neighborhood information website.
This three-bedroom Tudor home sits in the heart of South Park Hill, on what the listing calls “one of the best blocks in the neighborhood.” No renovation is required here—with updated kitchen and two bathrooms, it’s move-in ready.
The interior, done in neutrals, is filled with natural light. The grounds are landscaped, and in addition to the new, detached two-car garage, there’s a single-car garage that could be converted into an outdoor entertaining space.
The post 6 Charming Homes in Historic Black Enclaves Across America appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.