Many cities in the country are sharply segregated, but St. Louis is amongst the most pronounced. A singular road, Delmar Boulevard, divides the city between north and south, poor and rich, Black and white. According to the U.S. Census, neighborhoods north of Delmar are 98% Black, neighborhoods south are 70% white.
Homes north of the line are worth an average of four times less than homes on the south side.
This geographic, racial, and economic divide is the result of decades of segregation by government-sanctioned loans, redevelopment, and private discrimination. After a segregation bill that designated white and Black neighborhoods in St. Louis was successfully challenged in court, many landowners in white neighborhoods began signing racial covenants to prevent the sale of houses to Black people.
These real estate covenants were in use in St. Louis until 1948, when they were deemed unconstitutional. In the 20 years after the racial covenants fell, white residents began fleeing the city to the surrounding suburbs in record numbers; according to ProPublica, nearly 60% of the white residents moved away during this time, hollowing out the tax base in the city.
With drastic cuts to government services, the continued loss of industry, and the destabilizing effects of the War on Drugs, Black families with means also left for the suburbs to the north—including the town of Ferguson—leaving the half-abandoned North St. Louis that remains today. According toThe New York Times, the median household income in Daje’s neighborhood has plummeted to the low $20,000’s. In Antonio’s nearby neighborhood, over a third of the houses are abandoned. The concentration of poverty, lack of basic economic security, and scarcity of opportunities in Daje’s neighborhood create major impediments to realizing her potential.