A “New” Southern City’s Residential Segregation in 1940s: A Case Study of Greater Birmingham

Megan Bodily, Texas A&M University

Evoking the work of DuBois’, my research on Greater Birmingham’s residential segregation patterns between Blacks and whites in the 1940s engages with the historical background of the city while providing macro- and micro-statistical analysis using 100% count Census Bureau data provided by IPUMS. As a “thoroughly segregated” city, according to Dr. Martin Luther King, Greater Birmingham’s low to moderate scores of the D and S segregation indices, while expected, warrant further investigation into the city’s residential segregation. One possible explanation is the presence of a micro-residential segregation pattern called back-yard or back-alley segregation. This pattern of segregation gives the illusion of integration due to the close proximity Black employee households to white employer households. To analyze the impact of back-yard/back-alley segregation on the segregation indices of D and S, Black domestic service workers (DSWs) are separated from the population and the segregation indices of D and S scores are re-calculated for comparison. The D and S scores of the population minus Black DSWs reveal a small impact on segregation scores. To ground the micro-level statistical analysis, publicly available 1940 Census Bureau population schedules are inspected and analyzed for insights on patterns in addition to recalls to historical context. One of the main contributions from this research is the creation of EDs outside of Birmingham city proper in Geographic Information System. This case study of Birmingham’s segregation echoes research of the past while using the technological advantages of today.

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 Presented in Session 136. Geographies of Segregation and Inequality I