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Racial Restrictions

Redlining in Piedmont, California before 1968

"A Standard State Zoning Enabling Act" (SZEA) was a model law for U.S. states to enable zoning regulations in their jurisdictions. It was drafted by a committee of the Department of Commerce and first issued in 1922. This act was one of the foundational developments in land use planning in the United States. Landmark U.S. Supreme Court zoning cases, such as Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company (1926), supported strongly exclusionary views toward African Americans and European immigrants. These exclusionary views prevailed, despite the fact that Buchanan v. Warley (1917) declared racial zoning unconstitutional in 1917. Unchallenged discriminatory ordinances allowed residential segregation to become entrenched (Haar and Kayden 1989: 41-42). Another method of maintaining racial segregation was the use of restrictive covenants, which are private contracts forbidding home sales and rentals to blacks or Jews. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a restrictive covenant in Corrigan v. Buckley (1926), the same year that it upheld Euclid v. Ambler (Randle 1989). For the purposes of ra­cial control and segregation, zoning and racially restrictive covenants effectively perpetuated segregation by limiting housing opportunities for people of color. 


One of the primary FHA criteria in judging whether investments should be insured was the racial composition of the neighborhoods. FHA's underwriting manuals described "the infiltration of inharmonious racial and nationality groups" as "adverse" to neighborhood stability. Appraisers were, therefore, advised to lower the rating of properties in mixed neighborhoods, often to the point of encouraging lending insti­tutions to reject any loan applications from those areas. From 1937 to 1948, racially restrictive covenants helped secure and incentivize the ongoing activities of homeownership for whites. The FHA financed three out of every five homes purchased in the United States, yet less than 2 percent of FHA loans were made to nonwhite home buyers (Tobin 1987: 235; Rothstein 2017). 

Redlining map.jpg

The Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) was established in 1937. HOLC developed the rating system to evaluate loan risks. The lowest of the four categories was outlined in red. The vast majority of mortgages went to the top two categories (blue and green), the highest of which included areas that were categorized by HOLC as "new" and homogenous. The second category consisted of areas that had reached their peak, but were still desirable and could be expected to remain stable (Massey and Denton 1993: 51; Jackson 1987: 196). 


When the U.S. Congress abolished the PWA and adopted the Housing Act of 1937, the U.S. Housing Authority took over the de­velopment of public housing, this time by making subsidies to devel­opers rather than by directly constructing and managing the housing units. The principle of segregation continued to be applied. Often, integrated neighborhoods were replaced with housing projects that were for whites only. That meant the African American residents were displaced and had to look for housing in more crowded neighbor­hoods. Thus, the federal government actively created a housing crisis for African Americans at the time it was solving the crisis for whites.


Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as the Fair Housing Act) may be the most viable solution to remedy the unconstitutional federal hous­ing polices and procedures that created residentially segregated com­munities and homeownership opportunities for African Americans. 


Fair Housing Act read in part (24 CFR §100.50 (b):

It shall be unlawful to (1) Refuse to sell or rent a dwelling ... because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin, or to discriminate in the sale or rental of a dwelling because of handicap (2) Discriminate in the terms, conditions or privileges of sale or rental of a dwelling .... (3) Engage in any conduct relating to the provision of housing which otherwise makes unavailable or denies dwellings to persons .... Or (6) Engage in blockbusting practices in connection with the sale or rental of dwellings because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin. 


Blockbusting is a practice by which real estate agents and mort­gage brokers have profited from racism (Heiman 1987). For decades after World War I, agents were restricted by laws or by covenants in deeds from showing houses in white neighborhoods to black clients. But when restrictive covenants became illegal in the 1950s, the real estate industry adopted a new tactic. If a black family moved into a white neighborhood, some agents and brokers would engage in scare tactics to convince other white homeowners to sell their properties at a deep discount below market value. The buyer would then sell the same house to a black family at a price above market value, which the black family would pay because of restrictions on the neighbor­hoods in which they could live.1 The practice not only cheated both white sellers and black buyers, it also led to rapid resegregation of neighborhoods. Blockbusting became illegal in 1968 as part of the Fair Housing Act (24 CFR §100.85). Despite the law, the practice still continues (Oleen 2016). 

The History of Residential Segregation in the United States, Title VIII, and the Homeownership Remedy 

Teran McGrew MS, PhD First published 29 October 2018 link here

Restricted to Whites.png


"Piedmont, according to a 1937 document from the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, was a “favorable” place to build and make loans because of characteristics such as “landscaped streets” and “Racial restrictions.” That year, Piedmont had no Black residents. Although the practice was outlawed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the city was, and remains, predominantly white. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Piedmont is approximately 72 percent White, 17 percent Asian, almost 4 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 2 percent Black/African-American. By contrast, in the surrounding city of Oakland, White, Hispanic/ Latino and Black/African-American each make up about one quarter of the population. Asians are 16 percent."

From Piedmont Exedra's Will Callan | January 25, 2020

Piedmont - St James Woods Restrictions - Cover.jpeg
Piedmont - St James Woods Restrictions - Closer.jpeg



Clause XIV
No persons, except persons of the Caucasian race, shall be allowed to use or occupy said property, or any part thereof, except in the capacity of domestic servants of the occupant thereof.

Piedmont Deed with redlining covenant from 1945:



This agreement, made this 1st day of May, 1945, by and between the undersigned, who are owners of the parcel of parcels of land hereinafter particularly described opposite their respective signatures, said parcels of land being situate in the City of Piedmont, County of Alameda, State of California. 


WITNESSETH: That whereas, the parties hereto desire for their mutual benefit and for the benefit of the land of each of them hereinafter: described, to improve and further the interests of the neighborhood and community and ;

WHEREAS, the parties are mutually desirous of restricting the use and occupancy of all of the property in the district above described, solely and exclusively to persons wholly of the "White Caucasian or White Race". 

THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual covenants herein contained and other valuable considerations, each of the parties hereto does mutually covenant, promise and agree with each and all of the other parties hereto as follows: 

That prior to the 1st day of May 1980, no part or parcel or parcels of land hereinafter described opposite the signatures of the respective owners thereof, or the improvements thereon, shall be used or occupied by any person or persons not of the White Caucasian or White Race with the exception that domestic servants who are members of other races and who are in the  actual employment as domestic servants of the occupants of said land, or any part thereof, may use and occupy so much of the land and improvements in which their employers reside as may be reasonably necessary.

It is further understood and agreed that should say parcel embraced within the afore described district be now occupied by a person or persons other than of the “white Caucasian or White Race" and should such a person or persons become a signatory to this agreement, this agreement shall not be construed that such person or persons or his immediate family shall be required to remove from or cease occupancy of the parcel or parcels of land now occupied by such family, not of the Caucasian Race; but that upon cessation of such occupancy by then, the restrictions herein set forth as to the occupancy by those other than of the “White Caucasian or White Race" shall apply and become immediately effective. 

Piedmont - Racial restrictions_edited.jpg
REDLINING - Abandonment Disaster Demonst
REDLINING - REDLINING - Abandonment Disa

Abandonment Disaster Demonstration Relief Act of 1975

Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, United States Senate, Ninety-fourth Congress, First Session on S. 1988


Oakland, Calif., August 28, 1975, Los Angeles, Calif., August 29, 1975 By United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Subcommittee on Housing and Urban Affairs · 1975 Full read here

Redlining - Bay Area banks - The_San_Fra

The San Francisco Examiner - Thu, Aug 6, 1992

Piedmont Advertising Race Restrictions

Piedmont Advertising
Race restrictions - Oakland_Tribune_Sun_
"Build-back and race restrictions"
Ad in the Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California) 
05 Oct 1924, Sun - Page 38 
Race Restrictions - Oakland_Tribune_Sun_
"Building and race restrictions"
Oakland Tribune (Oakland, California)
17 Aug 1919, Sun - Page 18

Sidney Moving was an "Improvement" 

The Importance of Being Urban DESIGNING

The Importance of Being Urban -


by DAVID A. GAMSON. 2019. Page 134

"The matter of condemning the Dearing property and building this street will be for the improvement of the city as well as to make (Sidney) move from Piedmont."
The Mayor of Piedmont, Oliver Ellsworth
Oakland Tribune - Oakland, California
29 May 1924, Thu  •  Page 6 

Piedmont's Demographics

Piedmont Demographics
The 1920s Census

To give you an idea of what the demographics were like in Piedmont in the 1920s (4 years before Sidney bought a house) you have to dig into the census and understand what the categories were and who lived in Piedmont at the time. In the 1920 Census, the enumerators were to enter "W" for White, "B" for Black, "Mu" for mulatto, "Ch" for Chinese, "Jp" for Japanese, "In" for American Indian, or "Ot" for other races. The definition for “B” and “Mu” is: “For census purposes, the term ‘‘black’’ (B) includes all persons who are evidently full blooded “black”, while the term ‘‘mulatto’’ (Mu) includes all other persons having some proportion or perceptible trace of “black” blood.” (Source: Pew Research Center)


According to the 1920 census of Piedmont, California (source: there were 4,195 White, 47 Japanese, 28 Chinese, 7 Mulatto, and 6 Black persons living in our town. No American Indian or Other races were listed as living in Piedmont. A total of 339 people were listed as Servants, 114 as Maids, 103 Cooks, 14 House Keepers, 14 Butlers, 3 House Boys, 2 Child Nurses, 1 Stable Boy and 1 Chore boy. For purposes of this site I only looked at the "Black" and "Mulatto" races listed. Here are the names of the 13 People of Color living in Piedmont in 1920:

Causy P Baker (widow) - 213 Mountain Avenue

  • Emma Hall, 38 years old, House Maid, "Black"


 Michael J Brophy - 332 Sheridan Avenue

  • Mattie Hunt, 33 years old, Cook, "Mulatto"


Charles H Brown - 55 Manor Drive

  • Mildred Hawkins, 20 years old, House Maid, "Black"


 Alexander Chalmers -  576 Park Way

  • Adeline Tenpelete, 20 years old, House Maid, "Mulatto"

Daniel Crosby - 105 Sheridan Avenue

  • Orine O Branford, 43 years old, Cook, "Mulatto"

  • Robert Branford, 14 years old, Chore Boy, "Mulatto"


Ward Dawson - 304 Hillside Avenue

  • Capitola Beal, 46 years old, Nurse, "Black"


John F Humburg - 38 Monte Avenue

  • Harriet Lewis, 27 years old, House Maid, "Black"

 J Bryant Grimwood - 419 Pala Avenue

  • Georgie Verbi, 44 years old, Cook, "Black"

Thomas E Morgan - 114 Dracena Avenue

  • Lee Grace, 52 years old, Cook, "Mulatto"


Leila B Stoddard - 126 Hillside Avenue

  • Laura Hayes, 52 years old, Cook, "Mulatto"

 Edward White - 47 Estrella Avenue

  • Mattie Gordon, 28 years old,  House Servant, "Black"

213 mountain - white maid - Oakland_Trib

Oakland Tribune - Fri - Feb 10, 1922

Two years later a newer family was living there requesting a new (white) house maid.

304 hillside - Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Dec_
419 pala - Oakland_Tribune_Tue__Jul_25__

Oakland Tribune - Tue - Jul 25, 1911

Most likely previous owners and not the Grimwoods

47 Estrella Avenue - Oakland_Tribune_Sun

Oakland Tribune - Sun - Mar 28, 1915

The next Black homeowner in Piedmont

Next Black Homeowner
The US Census happens every 10 years. 1930, 1940 and 1950s census are available however, the 1950 is still being indexed and not fully complete and 1960 Census will not be released until April of 2032. According to the "72-Year Rule," the National Archives releases census records to the general public 72 years after Census Day. As a result, the 1930 census records were released April 1, 2002, the 1940 records were released April 2, 2012, and the 1950 census on April 2022. For Piedmont in 1930 and 1940 censuses do not show anyone who is Black (census recorded as “Negro”) as head of household and owners. 2 people were listed in 1930 and they lived in additional units on their boss’ property. I have not been able to find the "next" Person of Color who owned their house in Piedmont, yet. So far, history has shown that Thomas Williamson was the first Black student at Piedmont and most likely his parents were the next Black homeowners.
Next homeowner in Piedmont.jpg
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 passed under the Johnson administration, this act outlawed segregation in public areas and granted the federal government power to fight black disfranchisement. The act also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to prevent discrimination in the work place.

Nine months after the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first documented Person of Color in Piedmont, and the initial individual to graduate from Piedmont High School (PHS), was Tom Williamson, a member of the class of 1964. Inducted into the Piedmont Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 by Bob Muenter, who was both my grandmother's best friend and the football coach at Piedmont High, Tom Williamson, Jr. and his siblings were the initial People of Color to enroll in Piedmont's school system.

Born on July 14, 1946, in Plainfield, New Jersey, Thomas S. Williamson, Jr. was the child of Mrs. Winifred Hall Williamson and the late U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Thomas S. Williamson, Sr. The latter, one of the first black officers to command white troops in the U.S. military, was stationed in Yokohama, Japan, where young Tom learned to speak Japanese before English. Eventually settling east of the San Francisco Bay in Piedmont, California, Tom grew up alongside his two younger siblings, his late brother George, and his sister Brenda. Their integration into Piedmont exposed them to the challenges and changes brought about by both well-meaning and less well-meaning neighbors, classmates, and teachers. [Source]

(Note: There could possibly be a previous person of color but I have not found them, yet.)

First to hold office - Williamson - The_

The San Francisco Examiner  - Fri - Oct. 9, 1959

Oakland Tribune - Thu - May 30, 1963


Oakland Tribune - Fri - Oct. 9, 1959

Tom in the post.jpg
1963 - Tom Williamson -  POC - Yearbook_
40 cambridge - Oakland_Tribune_Sun__May_

Oakland Tribune - Sun - May 29, 1949

Possibly the person who sold the house to the Williamson Family

Piedmont is "changing" with "intruders"

In 1963, 4 years after the first black student entered the Piedmont school system (and was elected to office - see above) while the Civil Rights movement was at a peak, a resident of Piedmont wrote Herb Michelson of the Oakland Tribune about the "changes" in Piedmont. From the 4 part series it sounds like electing Thomas Williamson as class president in Piedmont made some waves around the Bay:
reaction 1 - Oakland_Tribune_Sun__Jul_21
reaction to electing thomas williamson -
history of housing - Oakland_Tribune_Mon
This place certainly is changing. One man said to me, "We're not the smug little community we used to be by any means. The people that are moving in have different reasons now for moving in.
They used to come here solely for the status. This was a community of college graduates, people sensitive to the importance of social status. They inherited this sensibility and then they passed it on. 
Now a lot of intruders are coming in. They don't have the background of the others, just the money. And the money seems to be the only criteria."
There's more: "Even though these newcomers can meet the property values, they create a few problems. They have no social training or social values. So the structure here is frustrating to them. They're not being accepted or invited out. This they don't know how to cope with."
history of housing - Oakland_Tribune_Mon
3 black families - Oakland_Tribune_Wed__

Oakland Tribune - Wed - July 24, 1963

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed that prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Provisions of this civil rights act forbade discrimination on the basis of sex, as well as, race in hiring, promoting, and firing.
Fair Housing Act of1968

Fair Housing Act of 1968

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex.
piedmont prop 14 - The_Sacramento_Bee_Su
piedmont prop 14 - The_Sacramento_Bee_Su
piedmont prop 14 - The_Sacramento_Bee_Su

California Proposition 14 was a November 1964 ballot proposition that amended the California state constitution, nullifying the Rumford Fair Housing Act. Proposition 14 was declared unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in 1966. The decision of the California Supreme Court was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 in Reitman v. Mulkey. Piedmont resident, Gardiner Johnson spoke publicly about his opposition to the fair housing act and endorsing an act to nullify it.

The Piedmont Historical Society's explanation of our town's lack of color:

An email I received from a teacher in the Piedmont School system in 2021:

When I first moved to the area I contacted the Piedmont Historical society to gather information on racial covenants in Piedmont. The woman I spoke to claimed that there were no racial covenants and that Piedmont's racial segregation was caused by home prices preventing people of color from moving into the area

As we have seen with Sidney Dearing, People of Color could afford to live in Piedmont but our citizens vehemently denied their right to live here and forced his family to sell their house. How did the Historical Society of Piedmont not know our town's racial covenants, our KKK police chief and his supporters forcing Sidney to move or how Thomas S. Williamson's family and many others were treated here? Its hard to believe after all the racist evidence that financial differences were why our town remained so white for so long and that the Historical Society knew nothing of it. 

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