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Black History: Segregation; In 1969 Seattle Parks Dept. Stole Land from Church and Black Homeowners; Demand for Reparations

Seattle's Central Area was long the center of Black life and culture in Seattle. This was in part due to racist segregation and redlining laws that restricted Blacks and other ethnic minorities to the Jackson Street Corridor, Madison Valley and a few other neighborhoods. These laws remained in place until Congress and the Washington legislature outlawed them in 1968. At first, little changed after the laws passage and the Central Area remained the heart of Black life in the city. However, starting in the 1980's, and accelerating rapidly during Seattle's long tech boom, the Central Area gentrified and Black families began to migrate to communities south of the Seattle. Two Central Area census tracts that had been 90% Black in 1970 were 11% and 18% Black in 2020.

Rev. Dr. Robert Jeffrey Sr. speaks about reparations and justice at a July 2021 rally alongside pastors of other churches in Central and South Seattle 

In 2021 in response to the murder of George Floyd and the disproportionate effect of the Covid-19 epidemic on the Black community, faith leaders from historically Black churches in the Central Area and community activists demanded reparations and unveiled legislation for the City of Seattle to fund affordable housing and reverse the displacement of black working families in the Central Area.

Reverend Robert Jeffrey, New Hope Missionary Baptist Church: "Some might say that gentrification and displacement are a dispassionate affair from an invisible hand of the market. But Scripture teaches us otherwise; that it is the powerful that turn us into refugees and strangers in our own land."

Read powerful words from Rev. Robert Jeffrey Sr. in Seattle Times op-ed in June 2021 calling for reparations for New Hope Missionary Baptist Church and the Black community for land forcibly taken by the City of Seattle fifty years ago:

Outcomes & Progress

The arc of justice is long but there have been some tangible improvements:

  • The City of Seattle Office of Housing is financing and investing in developing and preserving housing in the Central Area and Rainier Valley, including projects sponsored by existing and emerging Black led organizations. 

  • A Community Preference Policy is being used in the leasing of affordable housing by prioritizing historic residents of neighborhoods that are experiencing displacement. 

  • Recent passage of the Seattle Housing Levy and funds from JumpStart, a progressive tax, are providing capital and operating support for housing sponsored by Black led and other BIPOC organizations.

  • With Mayor Bruce Harrell in office, an opportunity exists for the City of Seattle to make reparation for the land taken from New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in 1969. 

  • The King County Reparations Project is documenting and telling the story of the Central Area and other parts of King County and making the case for reparations ( 

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