My own. sweet TEX 1-9 By Martha Hamilton Austin The federal government is a strange .animal, a Dr. Doolittle Pushmepullyou-type creature, that finds itself at odds with itself. In Austin, it finds itself on the side of segregation one day, then fighting on the side of school integration the next. Over the past several months, Dept. of Justic lawyers have been arguing against racial segregation in Austin public schools, while attorneys for the U.S. Attorney’s office have allied with the Austin Public Housing Authority in an attempt to locate still another housing project for blacks in what would have been called “niggertown” in the days before 1954. The project, TEX 1-9, a name that conjures up images of the warm, personal dwelling place it is likely to be, promises to compound the problems of residential segregation that have made drawing an integration plan for Austin public schools so hard. It would be located almost at the city limits on the far southeast side of East Austin. East Austin is where some 82% of the city’s blacks and 63% of its Mexican-American population live and the site of 70% of Austin’s federally financed housing projects. East Austin is also the site of some clearly unintegrated high schools, which the city’s school board has been trying to Martha Hamilton is a former Washington, D.C. reporter, who works in Austin. 12 The Texas Observer RECENT BOOKS Ralph Nader’s study group report on the Food and Drug Administration, THE CHEMICAL FEAST, reviewed in the Nov. 13 and Nov. 27 issues of the Observer, is now available from the Texas Observer Bookstore. Another recent addition to stock is the fall edition of the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG. These titles, and all others stocked by the Texas Observer Bookstore, are offered to Observer subscribers at a 20% discount. \(No membership fee required, and no The prices shown below are the discounted prices, plus the 4Y4% sales tax. $5.80 $ .79 WholeEarth Catalog, Fall 1970 $2.50 Order from the Texas Observer Bookstore, 504 W. 24, Austin 78705. chop up in some legally acceptable fashion. U.S. District Judge Jack Roberts, an LBJ appointee, has been overly generous in giving the board time to do so, letting first the September deadline, then a Dec. 15, 1970, deadline expire. Even if the board and the feds reach agreement by March, the latest deadline, Austin’s school children will have had still another unintegrated year. EAST AUSTIN is not the other side of the tracks in Austin. It is the other side of the University of Texas State Capital downtown business district corridor that runs neatly down the middle of the city separating East from West Austin, and, with a few exceptions, blacks and Mexican Americans from Anglos. Austin public housing maintains this pattern. Of seven projects, three are all-black, two predominately Mexican-American, one predominately Anglo, and one an expensive, recently built lakeside complex for the elderly pure white. The Austin Housing Authority, public housing’s local custodians, opted for a so-called freedom of choice plan instead of a first come first serve tenant assignment policy, when charged by the Department of Housing and Urban desegregation orders in Nov. 1967. The plan has been successful in blocking race-mixing. Austin, for all its university professors, is not an enlightened town on racial matters. A city council that supported an open housing ordinance got the axe in the 1969 election, and the school board probably took heed. The board’s first approach to integration was to gerrymander neighborhood school districts to achieve superficial integration. Busing, the logical alternative in a town with such marked racial segregation in housing, was barely mentioned. “To resort to busing again would in my personal opinion be a step backwards . ..,” Roy Butler, an auto dealer who was chairman of the school board, wrote Austin NAACP President Volma Olverton last summer. Shortly before Butler stepped down as head of the board, reportedly to run for mayor, the school board brought forth a plan that made it clear it was ready to backtrack. IN THE DAYS of open segregation Austin bused black children out of Clarksville, a Negro pocket only blocks away from Allan Shivers’ West Austin mansion, across town to Black schools. And it most likely will be black children again whose time and money goes for busing to balance the schools the way the white leadership wants them balanced. Part of the school board’s latest plan is to build a new high school in northeast Austin and close down almost all-black Anderson High. Anderson’s students would be portioned out to other, whiter schools, where black students would remain a minority. It is not clear how this would affect the racial balance at Albert S. Johnston High School, which would be the “neighborhood” high school for TEX 1-9 residents. A 1969 school survey showed that Johnston served 534 Negroes, 1 Oriental, 1111 “Spanish surnamed Americans,” and 120 others. U.S. District Judge Roberts has so far pretended Mexican-Americans don’t exist when dealing with the question of school integration. What is clear is that the construction of TEX 1-9 means 300 units filled with black and brown families moved out of other East Austin homes by Urban Renewal and Model Cities. “. . . The construction of Project TEX 1-9 within an area of racial minority concentration . . . has the effect of exacerbating existing patterns of residential and school segregation,” a complaint against the project’s location contends. The Blackshear Residents Organization, a group of East Austin residents formed to defend themselves against Urban Renewal, is also fighting construction of the housing project. “It perpetuates segregation,” Wks. Parthenia Gillis, co-chairman of the Residents Organization, says. “It’s putting too many low income people in one place.” In Austin, those being relocated through Urban Renewal are Negro and Mexican-American. Although there is a waiting list for public housing, those who lose their homes through federal programs have priority. Mrs. Gillis mentioned other disadvantages of the site. “It’s not a convenient area. There isn’t any bus service. It’s just too far from the center of town and the center of activities. It’s not a site that Forest S. Pearson, Austin Public Housing Authority’s chairman who is a real estate man, or Nelson Puett, a builder on the Authority, would pi? .k for a suburb. Planes from Municipal Airport and Bergstrom Air Force Base roar overhead, and railroad tracks and busy highways surround it. Around the edges of the project site is a quarry that coats the area with dust; the Govalle sewage treatment plant, largest waste disposal plant in the county; and a dump. It’s not near shopping; it’s not near a bus line; but it is near East Austin and to Austin’s segregation-minded Public Housing Authority, this is apparently all important.
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.