Historic Character

My neighborhood’s fight for integration changed America. Now white neighbors are suing a Black pastor over his social justice work.

Meg Conley

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My family moved from Oakland, California to Denver, Colorado in 2019. We moved to Park Hill because people told us it was a nice neighborhood. They were right. It is nice. Park Hill is divided into three sections, North Park Hill, Northeast Park Hill and South Park Hill. My family lives in South Park Hill. We are a short walk away from the Denver Zoo and Natural History Museum. We can also stroll to coffee shops, Denver’s oldest non-profit bookstore, and a little market with shelves full of cans of imported Italian tomatoes. The library a few streets up from our house turned 100 last year. Park Hill’s streets are lined with big trees. Its corners are dotted with church buildings built at the beginning of the last century. The homes in Park Hill are mostly old. They range from sturdy to stately. Many are brick, more than a few have turrets.

“Nice” neighborhoods often have complex histories.

“From Grape to Monaco Boulevard” My family lives on Grape.

When you move into a home, you move into the history of the place the home occupies too. “Nice” neighborhoods often have complex histories. Park Hill’s history is rife with the blockbusting, redlining and rank racism that blights most cities in America. In 1932, white families met at Park Hill’s library to discuss the “problem” of Black families moving into the neighborhood.

In a flyer, The East Park Hill Improvement Association called for a meeting at the library to discuss “Great Danger Ahead”. The agenda covered “fire prevention, lighting and invasion of negroes.” The flyer reads, “Do you know that there are negroes living on Glencoe, Ivanhoe, Jasmine, Kearney, 17th Avenue on Park Hill? Let us get together and protect ourselves.” Covid research taught me that airborne droplets from talking can linger in the air for up to 8 minutes. It’s been nearly ninety years since that meeting. Still, it feels possible that some physical residue of the hate speech from that night lingers on the walls of the library.

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Meg Conley

✒️Women’s work, economic justice and the home. Work in Slate, GEN, Medium + my newsletter, homeculture. Subscribe at megconley.com