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If nothing changes there is going to be trouble. People are
tired of talking to themselves. My grandmother said
things would get better and my mother said they're going
to get better but I don't see any change. The cops keep
pushing us, telling us to move on. We are in perpetual

Mrs. Jacqueline Taylor, a Negro resident of Midtown West—a slum ghetto in Gary, Ind.-felt that she was caught in a treadmill:

I mean outside of this district time marches on .... They
build better and they have better but you come down here
and you see the same thing year after year after year.
People struggling, people wanting, people needing, and
nobody to give anyone help.

To Mrs. Taylor, her neighborhood was “a quagmire, a big quicksand": just like you step in something, you just sink and you

can't get out of it. You get in this place and, I don't know,
there is something about it that just keeps you.

I guess it's the low adequacy of the housing... the low
morals of the whole place. It's one big nothing. It's one
big nothing. I mean you can live here for millions and
millions of years and you will see the same place, same
time and same situation. It's just like time stops here.

Robert Jacobs, who once lived in a Negro public housing project on San Francisco's Potrero Hill, described the feelings harbored by the residents of that ghetto.' He said they felt as if they were "in a cage, and I felt like I was in a cage." To Mrs. Charlotte Gordon, a Negro mother in Gary, her neighborhood was "more or less a trap." Asked what she would do if she had sufficient income, she replied:

The first thing I would do myself is to move out of the
neighborhood. I feel the entire neighborhood is more or
less a trap. If you check back and check the people on wel-
fare now, nine times out of ten they are people that have
been on welfare before.


Charles Evans had even stronger feelings:

Being a Negro in Boston is the worst thing in the world

you have no way to communicate with anybody. You can't find a decent job or a decent place to live.1


These feelings of hopelessness and isolation were recurrent themes

in the testimony of slum residents.12 Mr. Jacobs described Potrero Hill


as separated from the rest of San Francisco by an "invisible wall." 18 Walter Robinson, a community organizer, testified that the Negroes on Potrero Hill "see themselves as isolated people who have to go it alone because the other people aren't really concerned about them.” 14 Edward Becks testified about the development of East Palo Alto, a suburban California community of some 25,000 people which is about 80 percent Negro. It was his belief that "the East Palo Alto area has become more and more cut off from the general community" so that the younger generation in the community "has no concept of any social relationship with any people other than Negroes." 15 Guido St. Lauriant of the Blue Hill Christian Center in Boston attempted to convey the isolation 16 felt by people living in Boston's Roxbury slum:

You hear people talk about the suburbs, but Roxbury is
really a suburb because we are out of everything. We don't
get any communication.1

This feeling of being "out of everything" is an aspect of the strong belief held by residents of slum ghettos that they are powerless.18 The Massachusetts State Advisory Committee, summarizing what it had heard at open meetings in March and April of 1966, reported:

A recurring theme during the four days of meetings was
the powerlessness of the Negro community. Whether the
people were discussing housing, employment, welfare, the
poverty program, education, or municipal services, they
inevitably made the point that no one listens to them, no
one consults them, no one considers their needs. More than
a score of speakers pointed out to the Committee that the
Negro in Boston is devoid of political power.19

Many slum residents complained that they were not allowed to participate in decisions directly affecting them. In Oakland, for example, witnesses testified that urban renewal officials for many years failed to consult residents of areas scheduled for destruction before formulating renewal plans. Mrs. Lillian Love, who had lived in Oakland for more than 40 years, testified that her family had lost three homes as a result of urban renewal projects. She said:

There has never been, except for the last few years, any
concern for what the people wanted. They were not even
made aware or informed as to what was really going to

One of the redevelopment projects which caused a great deal of

resentment in the Negro community in Oakland was the Acorn project. According to Mrs. Love:

When the surveys were made it was said that there were
only five houses that were worth saving in that area. This
was not true.... at the public hearing the protests that
arose at that time—and it was too late-indicated that the
survey itself had not touched the people who occupied the

Mrs. Carole King, who belonged to an organization of welfare mothers in Cleveland, testified that she had suggested to welfare officials "that we all get together with county, State and Federal officials to sit down and discuss the problems." According to Mrs. King:

They seemed to think it was a ridiculous offer and what
do we have to offer. They would probably be surprised.
We probably could work something out that would ac-
tually help the mothers and fathers that are on the welfare
programs. We are not even accepted as human beings....22

In San Francisco, Orville Luster, Executive Director of Youth for Service, an organization working with unemployed youths, complained about not being consulted in the formulation of programs affecting his community.2


Negro witnesses felt that their destinies were not in their own hands, but in the hands of white people who live in the suburbs. Donald McCullum, President of the Oakland Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Chairman of the West Coast Region of the NAACP, testified:

Oakland is run or ruled by Piedmont, by San Leandro,
Orinda, and Lafayette [white suburban communities].
The base power of this community resides there. The
problems, the needs are here in Oakland.24

Mr. McCullum was asked about Negro representation in local government:

We have a City Council, and until just very recently there
were not any Negroes on the City Council. . . . But
at the times that those in power determine that it is
good and proper that a Negro be placed on the City
Council, such occurs.25

Children in the Ghetto

Negro children, as well as adults, feel isolated from the white community. Calvin Brooks, a graduate of a predominantly Negro high school in Cleveland, testified at the Cleveland hearing that he had never known a white erson until he was 14 or 15

years old: Well, I had never known a person of my own age who was white because I was raised in a predominantly Negro area. I was educated in a Negro school, I went to a Negro church, and everyone I came in contact with was Negro and I didn't know anything about a white person in as far as their actions-I didn't think they were different. I just didn't know them. I didn't think they even existed because I looked at my arm and my face, it was brown and I thought that was natural because everyone else around me was brown.26

Mrs. Percy Cunningham, a teacher in an almost all-Negro junior high school in Cleveland, summarized her students' attitudes towards the white community:

...I find that many of the students feel that the white
community is something that is way out, it is out of
Cleveland. There is no white community in Cleveland
as far as many of the pupils are concerned."

Negro children also expressed feelings of hopelessness. Calvin Brooks described the impact of his school on its pupils:

... it had an effect because they were there and all they
saw were Negroes and they were raised in an environment
of poverty and the building was old and it had an effect
I don't know of—of hopelessness. They didn't think that
they could do anything because their fathers had common
labor jobs and they didn't think they could ever get any
higher and they didn't work, some of them.28

In Cleveland, Dr. Robert Coles, a child psychiatrist from Harvard University who has done clinical studies of Negro children in Boston and Cleveland as well as in the South, testified about Negro children in the North. A technique which Dr. Coles uses in working with children is to have them draw pictures of familiar things. He described the picture a Negro boy drew of his home:

This house is a shambles. It is a confused disorderly house
for a child that can do better and has done better. He has

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much better drawing ability. The house is deliberately
ramshackled. There is a black sky and what might pass for
a black sun or in any event a cloud of black. The ground is
brown and not green, and there are no flowers. It is a
dismal place. There is a cross on the door. The child told
me that the property was condemned.20

Children who live in slums, like children anywhere, are highly impressionable. Mothers who live in slums, like mothers everywhere, are concerned about the effects of the environment upon their children. Mrs. Charlie Jones spoke of the difficulties of raising her children in a Gary slum:

Well, where I live this is really a slum neighborhood is
what you would call it. And, well, you know, a lot of
taverns around there, you know, a lot of people that
doesn't live there. It's whiskey stores there. They will
come and they will buy the whiskey and they sit in the car
and drink it in this neighborhood because this is just a
slum and who cares. And all this, your children see all this.
They have to grow up right with all this."


Mrs. Ethel Plummer, a mother who lived in Cleveland's Hough area, feared the effect that the environment might have on her son: Well, Sam see a [pimp] with $125 suit and a big car and he feel that he won't have to go to school because he can get the same thing that this other—have—well, they may want to do the criminal things so they can get the same things that this other friend has and he may want to leave school for this easy life.31

Mrs. Taylor of Gary described her struggle to help her children overcome the effects of their environment:

I try to show my children the beautiful things that are
in ugliness. There are beautiful things in ugliness if you
look at it, if you have the insight to look at it that way.
And then I will tell them about different things and try to
put adventure in their souls, they are still young, so they
can pull themselves out.

And maybe if they are strong enough or if I can pull them
out, they can reach back and give me a hand and pull me
out. Meanwhile I have to pull them out. I have to be a
mother first and a woman second every time. I can not put
my own feelings above anything else.


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