DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Like many cities across the country, Dayton’s history with race relations is dark and complex.
From segregation to housing discrimination, there was constant tension between black and white people in Dayton throughout the 1900s.
“Redlining…you go through that consistently, you look at how we were disenfranchised from quality-of-life opportunities through financing, through homes, interest rates on loans, the situation where you were pigeonholed into certain areas where you could live, where the educational opportunities were,” Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims, Jr. said.
Dayton Mayor Jeffrey Mims, Jr. grew up in the city and remembers seeing blatant racism in high school.
“Feeling very nurtured in Dayton Public Schools in that time frame, and then feeling very challenged going to Jefferson Township, where we had no African-American teachers, we had some teachers who unfortunately use the N-word,” Mayor Mims said.
The racial tensions boiled over on September 1, 1966 when Dayton’s worst race riots took place. They happened after a black business owner was shot and killed by a white man. This prompted days of unrest, and the National Guard was deployed to restore order.
While things have slowly gotten better since the riots, there are still lasting marks on the city. These marks can be seen on Dayton’s west side, where Mayor Mims said many black people were forced to live because of discriminatory housing laws.
“When you are miseducated by design, when you have been discriminated in terms of your job, your housing opportunities, recreational opportunities, health care opportunities, you are angry again by justification. And then when you look at the fact that the things, the crises that we have in the community, the crises that affect people who are poor and people of color more so than they do anyone else,” Mayor Mims said.
Mayor Mims is proud of the work being done now to better black communities throughout Dayton. He said there is momentum growing in the resurgence of the west side, with the opening of the Gem City Market and West Social Tap and Table. He also said the city is making progress tearing down blighted buildings which he believes will serve as a catalyst for change.
Mayor Mims said he is hopeful it will continue for generations to come.
“That’s why creating the best conditions that we can in terms of school, in terms of opportunities for employment, and housing and recreation and safety. All those things fall on my shoulders and I take that and wear that with a badge of honor,” Mayor Mims said.