Incomplete Integration

Sharply defined black neighborhoods emerged early in the city's history, as shown in the migration charts on this page. Through the years, St. Petersburg's African-American population has hovered around 20 percent of the city's total.

With each civil rights victory, fragments of those communities spread over a wider area. But it was an incomplete integration.

Black and white people came together in schools, in the workplace and in a few neighborhoods. However, the city didn't become one community, especially in where people live. St. Petersburg's 2000 census shows a concentration of minorities in several abutting neighborhoods in the city's central section. The 22nd Street neighborhood for years has been among the city's lowest in median income.

Civil rights advances during the 1950s and 1960s opened new doors for African-Americans, who started attending integrated movies, eating in formerly segregated restaurants and shopping in stores that once catered to whites only. During the 1960s, a trickle of black students began to integrate St. Petersburg schools. In 1971, federal court-ordered busing demolished school segregation here.

People began moving away from old neighborhoods because they were able to -- or sometimes forced to -- and neighborhoods such as 22nd's began to dissolve. In some places, a sense of community was traded for integration.

Twenty-Second Street was already in steep decline when Interstate 275 pushed through its heart in the early 1980s, uprooting houses and businesses. The chart above illustrates the effect on 22nd Street's business district.

Relocating often meant better houses for people, but when the interstate crossed 22nd, it shoved out longtime businesses, made it harder to reach others and threw a noisy divide across the neighborhood.

"I think it was intended to destroy 22nd," said Moses Holmes, a retired National Education Association lobbyist. "I think it was the primary intent. I think that most African-Americans feel that way."

The interstate also displaced a number of families in white neighborhoods, but there was little conspiracy talk. With resignation, they mostly accepted that big projects are bound to be routed where property values mean rights of way can be purchased most cheaply -- or where there is less clout to fight City Hall.