African American neighborhood
African-American neighborhoods or black neighborhoods are types of ethnic enclave
Ethnic enclave
An ethnic enclave is an ethnic community which retains some cultural distinction from a larger, surrounding area, it may be a neighborhood, an area or an administrative division based on ethnic groups. Sometimes an entire city may have such a feel. Usually the enclave revolves around businesses...

s found in many cities in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Generally, an African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 neighborhood is one where the majority of the people who live there are African American. Some of the earliest African American neighborhoods were in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

. There were also early communities in Virginia. In 1830, there were 14,000 "free Negroes" living in New York City.

The formation of black neighborhoods is closely linked to the history of segregation in the United States, either through formal laws, or as a product of social norms. Despite this, black neighborhoods have played an important role in the development of nearly all aspects of both African-American culture and American culture.

The Great Migration

The Great Migration was the movement of more than one million African Americans out of the rural Southern United States
Southern United States
The Southern United States—commonly referred to as the American South, Dixie, or simply the South—constitutes a large distinctive area in the southeastern and south-central United States...

 from 1914 to 1940. Most African Americans who participated in the migration moved to large industrial cities, such as New York, Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in the US Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Allegheny County. Regionally, it anchors the largest urban area of Appalachia and the Ohio River Valley, and nationally, it is the 22nd-largest urban area in the United States...

, Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Detroit, Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

, Milwaukee, St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, Oakland
Oakland, California
Oakland is a major West Coast port city on San Francisco Bay in the U.S. state of California. It is the eighth-largest city in the state with a 2010 population of 390,724...

, Los Angeles
Los Ángeles
Los Ángeles is the capital of the province of Biobío, in the commune of the same name, in Region VIII , in the center-south of Chile. It is located between the Laja and Biobío rivers. The population is 123,445 inhabitants...

, and Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Long Beach is a city situated in Los Angeles County in Southern California, on the Pacific coast of the United States. The city is the 36th-largest city in the nation and the seventh-largest in California. As of 2010, its population was 462,257...

 as well as to many smaller industrial cities. Hence the Migration played an important role in the formation and expansion of African American neighborhoods in these cities.

While the Great Migration helped educated African Americans obtain jobs, enabling a measure of class mobility, the migrants encountered significant forms of discrimination in the North. Because so many people had migrated in so short a period of time, the African American migrants were often resented by working classes in the north, who feared that their ability to negotiate rates of pay, or even to secure employment at all, was threatened by the influx of new labor competition.

Populations increased so rapidly with the addition of African American migrants and new European immigrants both that there were widespread housing shortages in many cities. Newer groups competed even for the oldest, most rundown housing, as it was what they could afford. African Americans competed for work and housing with first or second generation immigrants in many major cities. Ethnic groups created territories which they defended against change. More established populations with more capital moved away from the pressure of new groups of residents to newer housing being developed on the outskirts.

The migrants also discovered that the open discrimination of the South was only more subtly manifested in the North. In 1917, the Supreme Court declared municipal resident segregation ordinances unconstitutional. In response, some white groups resorted to the restrictive covenant
Restrictive covenant
A restrictive covenant is a type of real covenant, a legal obligation imposed in a deed by the seller upon the buyer of real estate to do or not to do something. Such restrictions frequently "run with the land" and are enforceable on subsequent buyers of the property...

, a formal deed restriction binding property owners in a given neighborhood not to sell to blacks. Whites who broke these agreements could be sued by "damaged" neighbors. Not until 1948 did the Supreme Court strike down restrictive covenants. The National Housing Act of 1934
National Housing Act of 1934
The National Housing Act of 1934, , also called the Capehart Act, was part of the New Deal passed during the Great Depression in order to make housing and home mortgages more affordable. It created the Federal Housing Administration and the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation.It was...

 contributed to limiting the availability of loans to urban areas, particularly those areas inhabited by African Americans.

In cities such as Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 the influx of African American migrants and other immigrants resulted in racial violence, which flared in several cities during 1919.

The Second Great Migration

From 1940-1970, another five million people left the South for Northern and Western cities and industrial jobs. Violence marked some of the pressure of this migration, too, such as in the Detroit Race Riot
Detroit Race Riot (1943)
The Detroit Race Riot broke out in Detroit, Michigan in June 1943 and lasted for three days before Federal troops restored order. The rioting between blacks and whites began on Belle Isle on 20 June 1943 and continued until 22 June, killing 34, wounding 433, and destroying property valued at $2...

 of 1943.

In response to the influx of black people from the South, banks, insurance companies, and businesses began redlining
Redlining is the practice of denying, or increasing the cost of services such as banking, insurance, access to jobs, access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in certain, often racially determined, areas. The term "redlining" was coined in the late 1960s by John McKnight, a...

--denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking, insurance
In law and economics, insurance is a form of risk management primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent, uncertain loss. Insurance is defined as the equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another, in exchange for payment. An insurer is a company selling the...

, access to jobs, access to health care, or even supermarkets to residents in certain, often racially determined, areas. The most common use of the term, refers to mortgage discrimination
Mortgage discrimination
Mortgage discrimination or mortgage lending discrimination is the practice of banks, governments or other lending institutions denying loans to one or more groups of people primarily on the basis of race, ethnic origin, sex or religion...

. Data on house prices and attitudes toward integration suggest that in the mid-twentieth century, segregation was a product of collective actions taken by whites to exclude blacks from their neighborhoods. This meant that ethnic minorities could secure mortgage loan
Mortgage loan
A mortgage loan is a loan secured by real property through the use of a mortgage note which evidences the existence of the loan and the encumbrance of that realty through the granting of a mortgage which secures the loan...

s only in certain areas, and it resulted in a large increase in the residential racial segregation
Racial segregation
Racial segregation is the separation of humans into racial groups in daily life. It may apply to activities such as eating in a restaurant, drinking from a water fountain, using a public toilet, attending school, going to the movies, or in the rental or purchase of a home...

 and urban decay
Urban decay
Urban decay is the process whereby a previously functioning city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decrepitude...

 in the United States.

Urban Renewal
Urban renewal
Urban renewal is a program of land redevelopment in areas of moderate to high density urban land use. Renewal has had both successes and failures. Its modern incarnation began in the late 19th century in developed nations and experienced an intense phase in the late 1940s – under the rubric of...

, including white flight
White flight
White flight has been a term that originated in the United States, starting in the mid-20th century, and applied to the large-scale migration of whites of various European ancestries from racially mixed urban regions to more racially homogeneous suburban or exurban regions. It was first seen as...

, has also been a factor in the growth patterns of African-American neighborhoods. The process began an intense phase in the late 1940s and continues in some places to the present day. It has had a major impact on the urban landscape. Urban renewal was extremely controversial because it involved the destruction of businesses, the relocation of people, and the use of eminent domain
Eminent domain
Eminent domain , compulsory purchase , resumption/compulsory acquisition , or expropriation is an action of the state to seize a citizen's private property, expropriate property, or seize a citizen's rights in property with due monetary compensation, but without the owner's consent...

 to reclaim private property for city-initiated development projects. The justifications often used for Urban Renewal include the "renewal" of residential slum
A slum, as defined by United Nations agency UN-HABITAT, is a run-down area of a city characterized by substandard housing and squalor and lacking in tenure security. According to the United Nations, the percentage of urban dwellers living in slums decreased from 47 percent to 37 percent in the...

s, blighted commercial and industrial areas. In the second half of the 20th century, renewal often resulted in the creation of urban sprawl
Urban sprawl
Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a multifaceted concept, which includes the spreading outwards of a city and its suburbs to its outskirts to low-density and auto-dependent development on rural land, high segregation of uses Urban sprawl, also known as suburban sprawl, is a...

 and vast areas of cities being demolished and replaced by freeways and expressways, housing projects, and vacant lots, some of which still remain vacant at the beginning of the 21st century. Urban renewal had a disproportionate and largely negative impact on African-American neighborhoods. In the 1960s James Baldwin famously dubbed Urban Renewal "Negro Removal".

The creation of highways in some cases divided and isolated black neighborhoods from goods and services, many times within industrial corridors. For example, Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

’s interstate highway system attempted to maintain racial boundaries established by the city’s 1926 racially based zoning law. The construction of interstate highways through black neighborhoods in the city led to significant population loss in those neighborhoods. It was also associated with an increase in neighborhood racial segregation.

In 1964, the Civil Rights Act
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation...

 removed racial deed restrictions on housing. This enabled middle-class African Americans' moving to better housing, in some cases in the suburbs and in others, desegregation
Desegregation is the process of ending the separation of two groups usually referring to races. This is most commonly used in reference to the United States. Desegregation was long a focus of the American Civil Rights Movement, both before and after the United States Supreme Court's decision in...

 of residential neighborhoods where they had not formerly lived. In some areas, however, real estate agents continued to steer
Racial steering
Racial steering refers to the practice in which real estate brokers guide prospective home buyers towards or away from certain neighborhoods based on their race...

 African Americans to particular areas.

The riot
A riot is a form of civil disorder characterized often by what is thought of as disorganized groups lashing out in a sudden and intense rash of violence against authority, property or people. While individuals may attempt to lead or control a riot, riots are thought to be typically chaotic and...

s that swept cities across the country from 1965 to 1968 damaged or destroyed additional areas of major cities, for instance Detroit's 12th Street, and the U and H street corridors in Washington, DC.

Late 20th century

By 1990, the legal barriers enforcing segregation had been replaced by decentralized racism, where whites pay more to live in predominantly white areas. Some social scientists suggest that the historical processes of suburbanization
Suburbanization a term used to describe the growth of areas on the fringes of major cities. It is one of the many causes of the increase in urban sprawl. Many residents of metropolitan regions work within the central urban area, choosing instead to live in satellite communities called suburbs...

 and decentralization are instances of white privilege that have contributed to contemporary patterns of environmental racism
Environmental racism
Environmental racism is a sociological term referring to policies and regulations that disproportionately burden minority communities with negative environmental impacts....


At the same time, however, middle-class and upper-class blacks have also paid more to live in the suburbs and have left the inner cities of former industrial powerhouses behind. In the New Great Migration
New Great Migration
The New Great Migration is the term for demographic changes from 1965 to the present which are a reversal of the previous 35-year trend of black migration within the United States...

, black college graduates are returning to the South for jobs, where they generally settle in middle-class, suburb
The word suburb mostly refers to a residential area, either existing as part of a city or as a separate residential community within commuting distance of a city . Some suburbs have a degree of administrative autonomy, and most have lower population density than inner city neighborhoods...

an areas. This includes states such as Texas, Georgia and Maryland, three of the biggest gaining states of college graduates.


Despite these pervasive patterns, many changes for individual areas are small. Thirty years after the civil rights era, the United States remains a residentially segregated society in which both blacks and whites inhabit different neighborhoods of vastly different quality. Cities throughout history have contained distinct ethnic districts. But rarely have they been so isolated and impoverished as the African-American districts found in U.S. cities today.

Due to advancements caused by the Civil Rights movement, the social and political activism of the African American community (religious and educational institutions), there has been a strong prominent advent of the black middle class and Black white-collar professionals. This has produced many urban and suburban communities with black majorities populations or significant middle class black or 'buppie' neighborhoods. Such communities include Southfield, Michigan; Warrensville Heights, Ohio, Bloomfield, Connecticut; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Country Club Hills, Illinois. The residents of these communities generally are highly educated and tend to work in white-collar professional jobs. Such communities have also developed in many of the larger cities of the United States. Even those that have traditionally have statistics of high crime and poverty have also had neighborhoods with middle class and affluent blacks. Many cities' policies of gentrification has also played a factor.


Racial segregation in the United States
Racial segregation in the United States
Racial segregation in the United States, as a general term, included the racial segregation or hypersegregation of facilities, services, and opportunities such as housing, medical care, education, employment, and transportation along racial lines...

 is most pronounced in housing. Although people of different races may work together, they are still very unlikely to live in integrated neighborhoods. This pattern differs only by degree in different metropolitan areas. Due to segregated conditions and widespread poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, some black neighborhoods in the United States have been called "the ghetto" or "the projects." The use of this term is controversial and, depending on the context, potentially offensive. Despite mainstream America’s use of the term "ghetto" to signify a poor urban area (predominately African-Americans), those living in the area often used it to signify something positive.

The black ghettos did not always contain dilapidated houses and deteriorating projects, nor were all of its residents poverty-stricken. For many African Americans, the ghetto was "home", a place representing authentic blackness
African American culture
African-American culture, also known as black culture, in the United States refers to the cultural contributions of Americans of African descent to the culture of the United States, either as part of or distinct from American culture. The distinct identity of African-American culture is rooted in...

 and a feeling, passion, or emotion derived from the rising above the struggle and suffering of being black in America. Langston Hughes
Langston Hughes
James Mercer Langston Hughes was an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance...

 relays in the "Negro Ghetto" (1931) and "The Heart of Harlem" (1945): "The buildings in Harlem are brick and stone/And the streets are long and wide,/But Harlem’s much more than these alone,/Harlem is what’s inside." Playwright August Wilson
August Wilson
August Wilson was an American playwright whose work included a series of ten plays, The Pittsburgh Cycle, for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama...

 used the term "ghetto" in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984) and Fences (1987), both of which draw upon the author’s experience growing up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, first a neighborhood of early European immigrants, then a black ghetto. Depending on the context and social circles, the term 'ghetto' or 'hood (short for neighborhood) can be a term of endearment for where the individual person has been brought up or lives.


Although some black neighborhoods may suffer from civic disinvestment
Disinvestment, sometimes referred to as divestment, refers to the use of a concerted economic boycott, with specific emphasis on liquidating stock, to pressure a government, industry, or company towards a change in policy, or in the case of governments, even regime change...

, with schools assumed to be of lower quality due to some schools showing lower test scores, less effective policing and fire protection, there are institutions that help to improve the physical and social capital of black neighborhoods. And with the social mobility of many African Americans, there has been the rise of many communities with better schools and safe neighborhoods. But these issues may be more due to economics than race since middle class blacks with middle class neighborhoods tend to live in better neighborhoods and children attend better schools than those from lower income neighborhoods or schools districts.


In black neighborhoods the churches have been important sources of social cohesion and activism. For some African Americans, the kind of spirituality learned through these churches works as a protective factor against the corrosive forces of racism. Churches may also do work to improve the physical infrastructure of the neighborhood. Churches in Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

 have undertaken real estate ventures and renovated burnt-out and abandoned brownstone
Brownstone is a brown Triassic or Jurassic sandstone which was once a popular building material. The term is also used in the United States to refer to a terraced house clad in this material.-Types:-Apostle Island brownstone:...

s to create new housing for residents. Churches have fought for the right to operate their own schools in place of the often inadequate public schools found in many black neighborhoods.


The African American Museum Movement emerged during the 1950s and 1960s to preserve the heritage of the Black experience and to ensure its proper interpretation in American history. Museums devoted to African American history
African American history
African-American history is the portion of American history that specifically discusses the African American or Black American ethnic group in the United States. Most African Americans are the descendants of captive Africans held in the United States from 1619 to 1865...

 are found in many black neighborhoods. Institutions such as the African American Museum and Library at Oakland
African American Museum and Library at Oakland
The African American Museum and Library at Oakland is a museum and non-circulating library dedicated to preserving the history and experiences of African Americans in Northern California and the Bay Area. It contains an extensive archival collection of such artifacts as diaries, correspondence,...

 , the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is located in the Cultural Center of the U.S. city of Detroit, Michigan. Founded in 1965, it holds the world's largest permanent exhibit on African American culture. In 1997, it moved into a 120,000 square foot facility on Warren Avenue...

 in Detroit, and The African American Museum in Cleveland
The African American Museum in Cleveland
African American Museum formerly the Afro-American Cultural & Historical Society Museum in Cleveland, Ohio was founded in 1953 by Icabod Flewellen. The Museum is housed in a 100-year-old Carnegie Library building...

 were created by African Americans to teach and investigate cultural history that, until recent decades was primarily preserved through oral traditions.

Theatre and arts

Major movements in literature, music and the arts have their roots in African American neighborhoods: Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, Gospel
Spiritual (music)
Spirituals are religious songs which were created by enslaved African people in America.-Terminology and origin:...

, Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, Harlem renaissance
Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke...

, Soul
Soul music
Soul music is a music genre originating in the United States combining elements of gospel music and rhythm and blues. According to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, soul is "music that arose out of the black experience in America through the transmutation of gospel and rhythm & blues into a form of...

, Hip hop
Hip hop
Hip hop is a form of musical expression and artistic culture that originated in African-American and Latino communities during the 1970s in New York City, specifically the Bronx. DJ Afrika Bambaataa outlined the four pillars of hip hop culture: MCing, DJing, breaking and graffiti writing...

, Rap
Rap may refer to:*Rapping, performance in which rhyming lyrics are used, with or without musical accompaniment ; while an MC performs spoken verses in time to a beat/ melody**Hip hop subculture**Hip hop music...

, Rock 'n' roll and others. Cities were the places where young artists could meet and study with other artists and receive recognition, as did Jacob Lawrence when his "Migration Series" was featured by the Museum of Modern Art in New York when he was still in his 20's.

African American neighborhoods have also generated African American theater and numerous dance companies in a variety of styles. After his career as a classical ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet, Arthur Mitchell
Arthur Mitchell (dancer)
Arthur Mitchell is an African-American dancer and choreographer who created a training school and the first African-American classical ballet company, Dance Theatre of Harlem...

 founded a school and dance company in Harlem. Alvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey, Jr. was an American choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. Ailey is credited with popularizing modern dance and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th century concert dance...

 created dances out of the African American experience with his Alvin Ailey Dance Company.

Chicago stepping
Chicago stepping
Stepping is an urban dance that continues to evolve defining its unique style and culture within in the context of mainstream Swing dance. Stepping has gained popularity, particularly but not limited to the urban neighborhoods of America...

 is a name given to a dance that has evolved over the years from various other dances. Originally created in Chicago's predominately African American neighborhoods, the dance has morphed from its beginnings with the Jitterbug in the 1930s and 1940s, to the Offtime in the 1950s, to the Walk and the Chicago Bop in the 1960s and 1970s.

Hip hop
Hip hop
Hip hop is a form of musical expression and artistic culture that originated in African-American and Latino communities during the 1970s in New York City, specifically the Bronx. DJ Afrika Bambaataa outlined the four pillars of hip hop culture: MCing, DJing, breaking and graffiti writing...

 is both a cultural movement and a music genre
Hip hop music
Hip hop music, also called hip-hop, rap music or hip-hop music, is a musical genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted...

 developed in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 starting in the 1970s predominantly by African American
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

s. Since first emerging in the South Bronx
South Bronx
The South Bronx is an area of the New York City borough of The Bronx. The neighborhoods of Tremont, University Heights, Highbridge, Morrisania, Soundview, Hunts Point, and Castle Hill are sometimes considered part of the South Bronx....

 and Bedford-Stuyvesant
Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Bedford-Stuyvesant is a neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Formed in 1930, the neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community Board 3, Brooklyn Community Board 8 and Brooklyn Community Board 16. The neighborhood is patrolled by the NYPD's 79th and 81st...

, the lifestyle of hip hop culture has spread around the world.


Many African American neighborhoods produce their own newspapers, including the South Fulton Neighbor in Atlanta, the Capitol Update in Tallahassee, and the Star
Omaha Star
The Omaha Star is a newspaper founded in 1938 in North Omaha, Nebraska by Mildred Brown and her husband S. Edward Gilbert. Housed in the historic Omaha Star building in the Near North Side neighborhood, today the Omaha Star is the only remaining African-American newspaper in Omaha and the only one...

in Omaha.


Segregation in schools and universities led to the creation of many Black schools. Public elementary, junior and senior high schools across the United States during the period of legal segregation. Students that attended this school went through either vocational classes or regular high school. This school offered several vocational such as cosmetology, tailoring and welding.

Built environment

Although, after the Great Migration from the rural South, many African American neighborhoods are located in inner cities
Inner city
The inner city is the central area of a major city or metropolis. In the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Ireland, the term is often applied to the lower-income residential districts in the city centre and nearby areas...

 or part of an urban center, there is a growing number of suburban neighborhoods with black majority populations or with a significant population. These are the mostly residential neighborhoods located closest to the central business district
Central business district
A central business district is the commercial and often geographic heart of a city. In North America this part of a city is commonly referred to as "downtown" or "city center"...

. The built environment is often 19th- and early 20th-century row houses or brownstones, mixed with older single-family homes that may be converted to multifamily homes. In some areas there are larger apartment buildings.

Shotgun house
Shotgun house
The shotgun house is a narrow rectangular domestic residence, usually no more than 12 feet wide, with doors at each end. It was the most popular style of house in the Southern United States from the end of the American Civil War , through the 1920s. Alternate names include shotgun shack,...

s are an important part of the built environment of some southern African American neighborhoods. The houses consist of three to five rooms in a row with no hallways. This African American house design is found in both rural and urban southern areas, mainly in African-American communities and neighborhoods (especially in New Orleans). The term "shotgun house," is often said to come from the saying that one could fire a shotgun
A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug...

 through the front door and the pellet
Lead shot
Lead shot is a collective term for small balls of lead. These were the original projectiles for muskets and early rifles, but today lead shot is fired primarily from shotguns. It is also used for a variety of other purposes...

s would fly cleanly through the house and out the back door. However, the name's origin may actually reflect an Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

n architectural heritage, perhaps being a corruption of a term such as to-gun, which means "place of assembly" in the Southern Dohomey Fon area.

During the periods of population decline and urban decay
Urban decay
Urban decay is the process whereby a previously functioning city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decrepitude...

 in the 1970s and 1980s many African American neighborhoods, like other urban minority neighborhoods, repurposed abandoned lots as community gardens. Community gardens serve social and economic functions, providing safe, open spaces in areas with few parks. Organizations such as Philadelphia Green, organized by the Philadelphia Horticultural Society, have helped communities organize gardens to build community feeling and improve neighborhoods. They can be places for socialization, fresh vegetables in neighborhoods poorly served by supermarkets, and sources of traditional African American produce.
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