Today we’re remembering the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his work on overcoming the racial divide in America. Although he never visited Rockville, his values were affecting some of the people who lived here. In 1963, the first African American family moved into Hungerford, which prompted fear in the neighborhood that property values would fall. In response, the city and county increased police patrols to quell any potential violence, the local newspaper didn’t report on the event, and the City Council held a special meeting to determine the city’s role, including “its moral responsibility for bringing about the peaceful transition of the neighborhood.”
While some neighbors were gathering to get these new neighbors to move out, others were making them feel welcome and distributed a fact sheet to counter the rumors and local churches and businesses came forward to discourage protests and attacks against the African American family. It took a couple weeks before the tension dissipated, but in the 1960s, it could have become a violent confrontation. I’ve attached an article from the National Civic Review that provides more details.
Today, Rockvillians would be shocked to hear of events like this occurring in our community. Racial and ethnic differences are certainly still present and cause concern in some residents and neighborhoods, but they are far less prevalent that those around class differences. The fights about affordable housing are typically surrogates about keeping people in the working class out of professional class neighborhoods (remember Beall’s Grant II?). As with African American moving into a neighborhood for the first time back in the 1960s, the arguments are surprisingly the same: lower property values and increased crime. Rockville has come a long way from the racial strife of the 1960s but we still have a long way to go.
Thanks for history.