In The Slums of Italian Town

My Family’s Story:

From left to right: My grandmother, Margherita. My great-grandmother, Maria. And my great-aunt, Antonina. Taken circa 1960.

While my grandparents did not move from Italy to the United States until the 1950s, the area in San Jose, CA that they moved to was already red-lined and marked as “hazardous” by 1940.

From anecdotal stories passed down from my grandparents, this area was run down and overcrowded. The people there struggled to make end’s meet, often working long hours for little pay. My own grandmother worked as a laborer in a cannery nearby, which according to the site, was a popular employer of this community.

Mapping Inequality Representation of San Jose, CA. Area D11 is highlighted in red. Source

Area D11: An Italian Slum

According to the Mapping Inequality website, area D11 (represented in red by the map above) was a “Zoned multi-family residential, industrial and business. This is one ‘Italian Town’ and contains the slum section of San Jose.” 75% of the residents of this area were foreign-born Italians, like my family.

Close up of area D11. The Coronato residence at the intersection of Grant and Locust Streets is marked with a star.

The Coronato Family’s Example

Below is the 1940 census data representing the intersection of Grant and Locust streets, located in area D11 (see star on map above.)

Because I do not have the exact address that my family lived at in this area, I chose a family from the 1940 census that resembled my family’s background: the Coronato family.

Section of 1940 census data above, cropped to depict the Coronato family’s information

The Coronato family lived at the intersection between Grant and Locust street, marked with a star in the map above. All four family members were born in Italy, just like my grandmother’s family. The father, Joe, was a laborer who worked hard to provide for his family, without taking a single week off the entire year. The mother, Catherane, took care of the household. Both parents were 42 years old. Their 21-year-old son, Peter, worked as a cook in a restaurant. The 19-year-old daughter, Rosa, was a worker at the cannery, the same place my own grandmother worked.

The family made a combine annual income of $1700, on par with the average income of families living in this area.

The example of the Coronato family gives valuable insight into the realities of people living in this “slum,” which are similar to the experiences of my own family. While my grandparents were able to eventually move out of this “hazardous” area, they have told me of their difficulty in receiving a home mortgage because of the immigrant status and current residence in a red-lined area. It took them until the 1970s to be able to leave area D11. This demonstrates the lasting impacts of red-lining policies on the people who lived there in the past, and its continued effects in the modern day.

Featured Image Source: Festa in Little Italy. New York, 1908. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/95511738/. Note: This photograph is not of San Jose, but it does represent what a “Little Italy” slum looked like in a different part of the country.

Was the University of Portland always like this?

When looking for something to look at in terms of the 1940 Census and Mapping Inequality, I had never lived in any of the areas highlighted in either application. Therefore, I decided to look around the University of Portland campus. As we know from attending UP, the campus and its students are typically seen as upper middle class. Given that UP is a private, Catholic, university, the tuition is more hefty than a state school or a community college, and is only rising. While UP does give out decent scholarships, the tuition price tends to discourage incoming students. After spending 4 years on this campus, I decided to look into if UP and the area around UP has always been the way it appears now in terms of class and social community. First I looked at the census information for the people living at UP in 1940. This was when UP was still a male-only university, and based on the census information, the majority of people who lived at UP were white professors and almost all of them were not from Oregon. While this is interesting information, most of the Census sheet was not filled out about the income of these professors.

The Census information for the University of Portland in 1940 Source

While I found this really interesting, I wanted to look more into the surrounding areas which has become known as the University Park. Today, students that live off campus typically have 3-5 roommates and live in what is considered now, larger houses. Based on the Mapping Inequality information, the University Park are is classified as yellow, which is considered “Definitely Declining” however, in the Clarifying Remarks, it claims that there are new developments in the area which could categorize some parts as low blue, making it “Still Desirable”. Parts of the North Portland are are graded blue. The Mapping Inequality also points out that many of the houses are multi-residential homes, which kind of mirrors the situation that off-campus students live in today. The average income from the time was $1,200 – $2,000 for the area as well. The area was also predominantly white without many other foreign born families.

Mapping Inequality Source

I decided to look at the Census information around Lombard, primarily North Bowdoin St. off of Portsmouth because a few of my friends shared a house on that street. While the houses in that area were primarily built in the 1980’s, one house there still stands. It was built in 1927! It is a 2 bedroom, 1 bath, 1,029 sqft house that is estimated to be worth around $395,000 today. Thanks to the magic of Zillow, we can see that it is slightly more affordable than the houses nearby, except for the newest townhouses that were recently built.

Zillow Source

Looking at the 1940 Census information, we can also see that the family that lived there were not as well off as their neighbors. Being a 3 member household, composed of a husband, wife, and their daughter, they had a salary or wage of $880, probably a yearly income and the father worked as a Turner for a barrel manufacture. They were a part of the lower income group in this area as most people made over $1,000.

1940 Census Source

Overall, it is interesting to see exactly what existed in 1940 and to learn about the area. A few commonalities still exist the area of UP today. In the Mapping Inequality, it points out that the projected desirability of the area would only increase in the following 50 years which it has, but today, we see this part of North Portland as a diverse area where you can walk down a few blocks and see a disparity between the overall quality of the area. This was highlighted in the Census and the Mapping Inequality website by showing the differences in people’s earning as well as highlighting the projected development in some parts. While in the 1940’s it was a predominately white area composed of people who had moved from other states, today we can see that it has diversified somewhat. I think walking around on campus, one can really see that our population is still mostly white people, but it is also reflected by the area. This is really telling of the lasting impacts of Portland’s history of red lining and the limiting of where people of color could live. We should still strive for diversity in our communities but as seen by the rising cost of living and housing costs, the trajectory that we are on will extremely limit who can live in North Portland. Unfortunately, the one of the cheapest houses in the area is one of the oldest which brings on a whole other host of potential bills and costs of what it takes to be a home owner. Either way, society as a whole would need to make some serious changes to obtain some level of true equality that acknowledges the history of the area.

Source Image: This is a picture of the University of Portland in 1937, there are a ton of digitalized UP memorabilia like the Log (which I had to personally digitalize while working in the library, it dates back to when UP became the University of Portland in the 1930’s)

Straight out of Seattle or White Center

Seattle, a city located in the state of Washington and is famous for its rainy weathers year round. I call the city of Seattle my home for 21 years. In Seattle, I have lived in a sub-city called White Center which is between West Seattle (North) and Burien (South). I’ve always wondered what my area was like back then. Was it diverse or was one race dominating the area?

I just immigrated to Seattle from the Philippines looking for work and wanting a new life here in America. I was the only one that went to Seattle or let alone the U.S. while the rest of my family is in the Philippines. The blue dot is where I lived, but unfortunately it wasn’t the new life I anticipated. I am mostly living within the “D8” district which was also red meaning hazardous. According to the description of D8,

“Sparsely settled district lacking adequate street improvements, schools, recreational facilities etc. Transportation is an acute problem. Future assessments will create an excessive burden incidental to home ownership in this area.”

What this means is that the area that I am currently live in is a bad area; it is underdeveloped. 22% of Seattle that was recorded in the 40s is considered hazardous. The demographics show that 368,302 was the total population. 16.2% were foreign-born white and 0.8% is foreign-born Japanese. This is extremely hard because there aren’t a lot of Filipinos in the area. On top of that, most of the area is in the red, if I want to work there. Observing the areas that surround mine, it looks like mine is either the biggest or second biggest when combining districts “B18” and “B19.” What district “D8” needs is a second chance to be viewed. The hazardous is only bad because people labeled us that way.

Fast forward to the present day, you can say that White Center has evolved through out the years. More buildings and roads that connect. In addition to that, a Seattle Times article says that, “White Center is among the most diverse areas in King County, with 60 percent communities of color, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.” Although the city still does sometimes gets a bad reputation by calling it “ghetto,” I am proud to be living here in White Center.

Article Source

Map Source

Featured image source

All Hat, No Cattle (All Rap, No Battle)

Many pop culture stars thrive because of their unfavorable background. It seems that the majority of rappers pride themselves on their poor childhoods, and rough history. The project streets of California, Atlanta, Chicago, and Brooklyn, contain the home addresses of some of history’s most famous names. But are some of these stories fabricated in order to fit the tough-guy persona of the stereotypical pop culture rapper? Let’s take a look at the childhood neighborhoods of some of society’s most famous artists and see for ourselves whether they really are all rap, no battle.