‘Until that riot happened’
Rioting in the 1960s depressed the value of Black-owned property in central cities for years afterward. As a result, the racial gap in property values between white and Black homeowners widened more in cities with severe riots, according to research by the economic historians Robert Margo and William Collins.
“As destructive as these events were, our interpretation of the large and relatively lasting impact of the riots on property values isn’t really a story just about the physical destruction of particular buildings,” Mr. Collins said.
Rather, he said, the destruction combined with expectations that these communities would remain risky places to invest or live in. The same pattern followed later unrest, like the 1980 rioting in Miami’s Liberty City, set off when an all-white jury acquitted police officers in the beating death of Arthur McDuffie.
“Liberty City was reeling even before the 1980 riot, but there was no specific association of the name ‘Liberty City’ with death, with race violence, with rioting,” said Marvin Dunn, a historian and professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University, who went to elementary school in the neighborhood in the 1950s. “There was no sense that you should be afraid in Liberty City any more than anyplace else in Black Miami. Until that riot happened.”
Liberty City had long been the destination neighborhood for African-Americans pushed out of other parts of Miami. In the 1930s, a large segregated public housing project was built there. In the 1950s, when a highway was planned through the predominantly Black Overtown neighborhood to the south, white landowners in Liberty City rushed to build cheap rental housing for the crowds of renters they knew were coming. “Concrete monsters,” those buildings came to be called.
Now 40 years after the riots, an effort to replace the public housing in the neighborhood with mixed-income development has made some residents nervous. And Liberty City’s high ground, away from the coast, has suddenly enhanced its value in a city worried about sea-level rise.