It’s a city time forgot; it’s a history lesson that we purposefully skip over; it’s yet another reminder that “Manifest Destruction” (the Great Migration of Blacks from South) was the most devastating event in American history.
With a population that nearly 100 percent white in 1920, Gary saw a migration of 15,000 Black migrants between 1920 and 1930. At 18 percent of the population of Gary in 1930, another 20,000 Black people would join them by 1940–lured by work in the steel mills.
Through high fecundity rates (maintaining close racial solidarity), the percentage of Blacks would slowly begin to overwhelm the white population; by 1967, Black people would be able to elect Richard Gordon Hatcher as one of the first Black mayors of a major city in the nation.
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Time magazine would report the election of Hatcher was a victory, not because of race, but due to a desire to reform the political process. Nevertheless, the magazine would report:
“Shouting, dancing Negroes weaved wildly through the six downtown blocks of Gary, Indiana.”
Today, Gary, Indiana is 84 percent Black. USA Today called it a “ghost-town” in a 2011 article [Gary, Ind., struggles with population loss, by Judy Keen, 5-19-2011]:
The 2010 Census crystallized Gary’s decline: The population, which peaked at 178,320 in 1960, is now 80,294. From 2000 through last year’s count, Gary lost 22% of its residents. The city’s unemployment rate in February was 9.8%.
Gary — like Detroit, which lost 25% of its people in the past decade — faces tough questions: What is the best way to shrink a city? How can city government provide adequate services as its tax base contracts? How can new employers and residents be wooed to a place known more for blight than for opportunity?
The city has cut many services and decided last month to close its main library, which opened in 1964. A state board raised property tax caps this month and set Gary’s tax levy at $40.8 million. If the caps had not been increased, Gary would have been allowed to collect only $30 million. It was the third and final time the city can seek such relief.
A plague of vacancies: Gary was founded in 1906 by U.S. Steel, which still employs 4,727 here. Last year, the company announced a $220 million modernization of the Gary plant. The city’s decline began in the 1960s as overseas steel production squeezed U.S. makers and accelerated in the 1970s as “white flight” prompted the rapid growth of surrounding cities. More than 80% of Gary’s residents are black.
Wait a second: why can’t the 84 percent Black population sustain the wealth that white people left behind? Why can’t they keep alive the businesses? Why can’t they keep alive the high property valuations? How come the migration of Black people to Gary brought high levels of crime and violence that caused white people to flee the city? Why can’t the majority Black population ignite that entrepreneurial spirit, innovate, attract outside investments, and diversify the economy (as happened in Pittsburgh — another city built on steel)?
The answer is self-explanatory: because the population is less than 10 percent white and 84 percent Black. This is the cost of “Manifest Destruction.” Gary isn’t suffering from Urban Blight–that’s just a symptom of the real problem. It’s not suffering from crime, high foreclosure rates, bad schools, or lack of outside capital investment in the infrastructure (and potentially investors who would open up businesses that could provide some semblance of a commercial tax-base); it’s suffering from the unmentionable legacy of the migration of Black people and the overwhelming of a once prosperous white city.
Questions that will never, ever be answered. Instead, billions upon billions of stimulus must be spent to try and “save” cities like Detroit and Gary–the reason being that “Manifest Destruction” destroyed the social capital, community, and infrastructure that white people had created before their arrival.
Without restrictive covenants, the future of all American cities resembles that of Detroit, Michigan or Gary, Indiana. It is, after all, the most American of All America Cities: In Black-Run America (BRA) that is. And like that fistful of sand from the Rod Stewart song, civilization in Gary has slipped through the hands of the Black people who inherited the city after whites left.