W.E.B. Du Bois


June 1, 1916

We sincerely trust that individuals and organizations friendly to the Negro are not going to be led into segregation schemes and ghetto plans by organized real estate interests masking as philanthropists. Movements toward furnishing model tenements for colored people are on foot in New York, Chicago and other cities. They are on their face in every way commendable. For the most part colored people in large cities have been compelled to put up with the old fashioned, inconvenient dwellings which white tenants no longer wanted, or they have gotten hold of better class houses only by the payment of exorbitant rents. The experiments of the Suburban Homes Company in New York City show conclusively that an excellent class of colored tenants may be had and good accommodations furnished at a fair rental. This effort should be extended; but when we find taking part in such philanthropic efforts the identical real estate interests in New York which have been working for years to oust colored people from the decent parts of Harlem and establish them upon the mud flats of the river in the extreme northeast, we have a right to view the matter with suspicion. The crucial question is, in New York and Chicago, WHERE are these proposed new tenements to be? Are they to be in a segregated district, or are they to be where there is light, air, transportation and decent surroundings? One great victory for anti-segregation democracy has been the buying of a site for the New York colored branch of the Y.M.C.A. outside of the proposed segregated dead line.

We would be very glad if the Urban League and the Harlem Property Owners’ Improvement Corporation would let the public know where their proposed new tenements in New York are to be erected.


For attribution, please cite this work as:
Du Bois, W.E.B. 1916. “Tenements.” The Crisis 12 (2): 81. https://www.dareyoufight.org/Volumes/12/02/tenements.html.