Historical African American Neighborhoods in Spokane

In Spokane's earliest decades, neighborhoods were segregated by wealth, not by race.

Before 1920, Spokane neighborhoods had no formal policies segregating housing by race. Successful Black Spokanites erected fine residents all over town, many of which still stand today.

A 1908 article in the Seatle Republican, an African American newspaper, cast a spotlight on Spokane, “A Group of Beautiful Homes of Negros in the Northwest.” It showcased five houses owned by Black Spokane businessmen. Frank L. Wilson, a caterer, owned a house at 1003 W. Cleveland Ave. Reverend S.J. Collins owned the second house. It is unknown where Collins's house was located in Spokane. A. C. Nevelle, a well-known barber, owned a home at 2401 E. Nora Ave that rivaled those of the Spokane elite during that time. Mathew Stafford was commemorated for building such a marvelous house at 959 E Hartson Ave. while working odd jobs to earn a living. John Byron Parker was also a well-known barber who had a house at 2826 W. Dean Ave. All still stand today.

As Spokane developed in the early 20th century, Hillyard and East Central became the destinations for new Black residents. Between 1900 and 1920 the highest population of Blacks in Spokane was 727 which accounted for 0.7% of the total population in 1920. The black population decreased in 1930 and 1940 to just over 600 people. The population then steadily increased from 1950 to 1990. There were 376 Black residents in 1900, which increased to 727 in 1920. African Americans left -significant cultural contributions in East Central and Hillyard.

These were bustling areas for working-class families. Their locations provided easy access to street cars which ran downtown and up to the South Hill. This made it especially attractive to Black workers and families that commuted to these areas for work, most of whom worked in the domestic and personal service industry.

Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church and Calvary Baptist Church were erected within East Central in 1890. These churches included important members of the Black community. One such figure was Reverend Peter B. Barrow who moved here from Mississippi with his family. Reverend Barrow was the first Black man to buy land in north Spokane where he started an apple orchard that employed African Americans. He also owned a house east of Liberty Park. Reverend James Gordon McPherson, the editor and publisher of Voice of the West, and the Negro News Bureau, lived half a mile away from Liberty Park. McPherson was also 4 blocks from Harston Townsend, a group of residences between Conklin Street and Harston Avenue. Harston Townsend housed some very important members of the community including the Flowers family, and Emmett Holmes who instituted a civil rights suit against the Washington Waterpower Company for their refusal to serve him at one of their restaurants in Natatorium Park.

(Reader Discretion: Although the addresses of the houses mentioned in this story are provided, we ask that you do not visit uninvited as these are people's private residences. Thank you on behalf of Spokane Historical.)