Farms to Flamingos: Building a Mid-Century Modern County
Shattering the Myth
African Americans faced discrimination when trying to purchase a home in overwhelmingly suburban, white neighborhoods. Realtors did not want to show houses in white areas to African Americans, and if they did, realtors tried to talk them out of buying the home. It was blatant discrimination, but realtors felt it was unethical to sell a house in a white neighborhood to African Americans because it was believed their presence would drive down the property values of the surrounding houses.
Until 1968, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) followed a policy of “redlining” when determining in which neighborhoods they would approve mortgages. Redlining was the practice of denying or limiting financial services to certain neighborhoods based on racial or ethnic composition without regard to the residents’ qualifications or creditworthiness. The term “redlining” comes from using a red line on a map to mark the area where financial institutions would not invest.
North Suburban Committee on Civil Rights
The organization was a grass roots group, loosely organized, and centered in the Circle Pines area of Anoka County. They reported about 1,000 signatures to their “covenant” in 1965. A main activity of the group was participating in the Metropolitan Clearing House Information Center. That organization maintained a list of people “willing to sell their homes to Negroes.” The organization also provided “aid and council to those seeking a house.”
“Black men die in Vietnam more than white men!”
It was an accusation that held merit during the early years of the Vietnam War. A number of factors, including the Armed Forces Qualification Test, assigned Black men to Army and Marine Corps combat units in greater numbers than their white counterparts. At one point, Black men made up 11% of all military personnel in-country, yet their casualty rate soared to more than 20% of the total casualties in 1965 and 1966.
Protests from Black leaders brought the inequities to attention and President Lyndon Johnson ordered that participation by Black men in combat units should be cut back. Those ordered changes brought the Black casualty rate down to 11.5% by 1969.
Overall, there were 7,262 Black military members who died in Vietnam during the war. Their deaths make up 14.1% of the total number of deaths in Vietnam at a time when young Black males made up 11% of the U.S. population.
By the 1970s, homes that had been built in the 1950s were turning 20 years old. Fashions (in home décor as well as clothing), had changed, with peacock tapestries and orange shag carpet becoming the rule of the day; some homeowners updated their homes to fit the changing times.
Other things changed more slowly. The tensions of the Cold War were high during the 1950s and 1960s. The possibility of nuclear war was on the minds of many Americans, as evidenced by the subjects of art, magazine articles, and other popular culture at the time. While the worst of the cold war passed after the 1960s, some tension with the Soviet Union lingered into the 1970s.
Although the 1950s and the 1970s may or may not seem distant today (depending on how old you are now), it helps to remember that time is always passing quickly. Twenty years ago today, it was 1999! It might be surprising to realize that two decades have passed since the 1990s.
It is much easier to collect the evidence of a time period while you are in that time period. Although the assumption is that the Historical Society is concerned with the past (and we are), we must also constantly be thinking about the future. What artifacts will we need 50 years from now to tell the story of today’s Anoka County? Can we collect those things now, rather than waiting until they are hard to find?