NewsThe Campbell Family Defies Racism In Real Estate

The Campbell Family Defies Racism In Real Estate

An ad in the Washington Herald advertised that homes could be made available for “reliable” Black buyers, which led to Campbell’s grandparents settling at a home on Walter Street

Black people, by the numbers, face historic discrimination in housing, going back to the redlining of yesteryear and stretching forward to today, where both Black homebuyers and sellers often face discrimination all along the homeownership process. Still, Campbell points to a directive from her great-grandfather, telling the NYT, “My great-grandfather wrote his will such that the Maryland property needed to stay in the family as long as any of his children were alive, so they would always have a home to go to.”

Christine Campbell said, “In the meantime, there was a migration of sorts from Southern Maryland to D.C. Through word of mouth, families decided where to settle, tending to move together to certain parts of the city. My family initially settled in this part of D.C.”

In 1952, Plater’s parents bought a house two blocks away, on Kentucky Avenue, but kept the Walter Street house to rent out to relatives and friends. They would go on to own four homes in the District, and even sell the original Walter Street home to Plater. Plater returned from college at the University of Maryland and married Joan Cross, a mathematician. Plater took a job as a soil scientist with the US Department of Agriculture, eventually becoming the Director of the Conservation Planning Division and a member of the Senior Executive Service, becoming one of the first Black people to get that high up in the organization. 

However, during the pandemic, the Campbell siblings, Christine, Stephen, and Patrick, wanted a space large enough for the family to gather, so they began exploring the idea of purchasing a bed and breakfast, which Christine had wanted for a long time. Patrick and Christine took a class on running a B&B, hired a consultant, and began searching for B&B properties in the area. Christine tells the NYT that she felt at home when they walked into the Keystone Inn, “When we walked into the Keystone Inn, we felt it — this was the one. The age of the building, the beautiful woodwork, the location — five blocks from the center of town but a little bit away from things was attractive to us siblings.”

Data on Bed and Breakfast establishments owned by Black people are hard to get, but the NYT says that most estimates place Black ownership of inns and Bed and Breakfast establishments at around 1%.

Back in Washington, D.C., the Walter Street in Lincoln Park residence would have seen more gains in property value if it was surrounded by more white residents. According to a 1937 Federal Housing Authority map, the residence was 63% surrounded by Black residents, and as a result, a separate map graded areas where Black people in D.C. tended to live as F, which the map described as “declining rapidly into very undesirable sections.”

As more white people moved into the neighborhood, the value of the Lincoln Park homes the Campbell family owned increased, in keeping with a Brookings Institute study that found homes in Black neighborhoods are valued at about half the value of homes in residential areas with no Black residents.

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Source: Black Enterprise


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