Thursday, May 17, 2007

Springdale -- It Is That Bad

A 1952 brochure from the Chamber of Commerce touted Springdale as "a city of 7,000 people, all white native born true Americans." Although some residents regret the changes, it is somewhat larger and more diverse today. Springdale is now a city of 54,000 people, less than 80% white native born true Americans.

Springdale's historic animosity to racial minorities was detailed in a recent article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and in a book by Professor James Loewen, Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. Neither addresses the current frothing about Hispanic residents, but both mention the restrictive racial covenants that attempted to prevent “Asiatics and Negroes” from renting or owning homes in the Sandy Heights Subdivision, developed by Sandy Boone in 1959.

Eleven years earlier, the United States Supreme Court in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), heard a challenge to a 1911 St. Louis covenant against "people of the Negro or Mongolian race" and held that the enforcement of such a racially-based restrictive covenant by a State court is unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Springdale Mayor Jerre Van Hoose built a home in the Sandy Heights Addition in 1964, but he says he never knew the covenant banned blacks and Asians. Sandy Boone said, “I’ve heard guff about that being in there,” but claims that his attorney, former Mayor Courtney Crouch, wrote the provision that prohibited blacks and Asians and that he “didn’t even know about it.” Courtney Crouch is dead and cannot deny it, but his son Jim says his father wouldn’t have wanted to ban blacks or Asians, and that lawyers typically write documents based on what clients request.

Springdale has a hundred city fathers, but the restrictive covenant appears to be an orphan. Still, there are lessons to be learned about the soul of the community, and the racial covenants in Sandy Heights remain even today.

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