Lines

Government and business have drawn lines around African-American communities for years.

One process was "red-lining," a race-based practice of steering people away from buying property in certain neighborhoods or refusing to do business there.

The 1931 city charter forbade blacks and whites to live or start businesses in each other's neighborhoods, though the provision could never really be enforced. A 1936 City Council resolution tried to move all African-Americans into a single pocket south of Central Avenue. Though it proved impractical, the lines of segregation, with government's approval, had been drawn.

Lines remain today. They don't speak of Jim Crow -- at least overtly -- but they can still separate a community from itself and, sometimes, from the rest of the city.

Revised congressional maps drew new lines this year. They essentially would segregate black neighborhoods from the rest of the city, linking them with a district in Tampa and severing politically the largest black community in St. Petersburg.

For decades, the school district has used lines to desegregate the schools. But in doing so, it has often bused black children from schools closest to home to schools far away, where they are in the minority.

City government also drew a line to define what it calls Midtown -- Second Avenue N to 30th Avenue S, between 34th Street and Fourth Street. It includes the area that the city government helped segregate during the 1930s. The lines are supposed to draw attention to a community that needs economic help. The goal this time, the city hopes, is to bring business in, not to keep it out.