Discriminatory Housing in Spokane

In Spokane as in the rest of the United States, structural racism has taken many forms. Among the most consequential has been segregated housing. Restricting racial minorities to certain "redlined" neighborhoods served to prevent the targeted groups from building political power or inter-generational wealth. Though legally abolished by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, racial discrimination in housing continued to be written into legal documents for decades and shapes the city to this day.

The exhibits in this tour tell some of these stories, from the earliest days of Spokane when African Americans could live where they liked, to the rise of racially-restricted neighborhoods in the mid-20th century, to the long shadow that racial housing discrimination has on the very infrastructure of Spokane today, from the location of the interstate highway to neighborhood tree canopies. Follow along and learn some of the histories of our community that are too little talked about.

Early African-American Pioneers in Spokane

In the 1880s Spokane grew from waves of immigration. Though white individuals were the majority, the city soon developed other minority populations. Along with the more famous Chinatown, Spokane had its own small African American community. In 1880…

The Origins of Segregated Neighborhoods in Spokane

Discrimination and segregation were common in Spokane much of the early-mid 20th Century. Segregated neighborhoods and even cemeteries existed as early as the 1920s. De jure segregation (government sponsored) supported racially restrictive property…

No Vacancy, Racial Bigotry Raises Its Ugly Head

Before the Civil Right Movements in the 1960s, Jim Crow was the law of the land. Spokane was not exempt from racial segregation. Black Spokanites were restricted to the few restaurants, nightclubs, and hotels that were willing to serve them. Even…

Airway Heights, Washington’s Unknown Sundown Town

Airway Heights was incorporated in 1955, but fourteen years before the small town became ingrained the Geiger Air Force Base was formed. The Geiger Air Force Base established in 1941, during the Second World War was used as a training base for…

Spokane's Debate for Fair Housing

In 1968, the United States was at a turning point. Debates about segregations had led to Washington Senate Bill 378, which specified that in Washington a real estate agent would have their license revoked if they were found to be discriminating…

The Segregated South Hill

One of the most prominent families in Spokane’s history is that of the Cowles. William H. Cowles, Sr. came to Spokane in 1891 with a vision of starting his own news company. By 1894 he was the majority owner of the Spokesman-Review, which is still…