City of Austin apologizes for role in disenfranchising Black people

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Austin City Council passed a resolution that formally apologizes for the city's treatment of African-Americans.

The resolution is sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, Mayor Steve Adler, Vanessa Fuentes, Greg Casar and Kathie Tovo. It aims to address long-standing economic divides between Black Austinites and their white counterparts.

"I am tired of living in East Austin still and I see dogs have a better quality of life than black children," said Nook Turner, with the Black Austin Coalition.

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"Item 67 not only takes action to address the horrors we witnessed against our black community, it allows Black Austinites a chance to take power back," said Fuentes, Austin City Council District 2.

The resolution will establish a black resource and cultural center. It also directs the city manager to partner with The University of Texas and Huston-Tillotson University to conduct a study on economic harm caused by the city's historic discrimination.

"How many more studies do these people need? UT has done plenty of studies, we in the community have done plenty of studies, we produced The People’s Plan," said historian Dr. Fred McGhee.


McGhee said the city needs political leadership and action, not studies. "This resolution is basically the equivalent of painting ‘Black Lives Matter’ on a street. It won't change anything," he said.

He believes Black Austin's historic plight continues to this day, and the population is shrinking due to overpriced real estate and zoning changes.

"Even in the 2000 Census, Austin still had a sensible population that was African-American more than 1/10th. In the 1930 census, it was about 1/3, 30 percent of Austin's population was black. That was after the 1928 Master Plan," said McGhee. He is hopeful the city can take a hard look at action plans and open that dialogue immediately.


"Right now we are on a fact-finding mission and we are taking the opportunity to do the necessary discovery to figure out what our best path forward is, " said Harper-Madison, district 1.