La Verne investigates housing history

By Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford

“Come explore our local housing history through exhibits and hands-on experience with historical documents,” said an invitation to an event at La Verne (Calif.) Church of the Brethren, sponsored by the Race and Place connect group.

Following on a 2021 presentation by Drew G.I. Hart about his book Who Will Be a Witness?, the event “blossomed from the seed he planted,” said lead organizer Erin Duffy.

Stations set up around the perimeter of the church’s fellowship hall offered different topics with a balance of hands-on activities, reading and viewing, and opportunities for personal reflection, conversation, and pastoral care, as well as children’s activities. Participants explored at their own pace, and in any order they chose.

The stations:

  • How the citrus industry shaped our housing history” explored how citrus growing in southern California, which required year-round labor, created dynamics between growers and labor that shaped housing and social policies.
  • Census: Who was here, who was missing in 1910, 1930” enumerated population for local cities in the early 1900s by race and ethnicity.
  • 1939 redlining maps: Racial covenants, segregation, and mortgage eligibility” explained and visually presented local redlining maps.
  • The Klan and vigilantes” described the Ku Klux Klan’s presence and activities in the area in the early 1900s, including notable public employees and leaders who were Klan members. The station also offered stories from local families about how their lives were affected, including one family’s experience of being prevented from buying the home they wanted, and another’s “Sundown Town” story.
  • School segregation and integration” told about La Verne’s integrated schools at the turn of the 20th century, segregation initiated in the 1920s, and reintegration in the post- World War II era.
  • Arbol Verde in Claremont” described these historic non-white neighborhoods and how they were replaced by roadways and industry.
Poster with title "The Citrus Belt: Ku Klux Klan & White Vigilantes
La Verne Church of the Brethren housing history display about the Ku Klux Klan

“Over 30 members of our congregation participated in preparations for this event, and we hosted more than 100 church members and guests,” said Duffy. “I am uplifted by so many meaningful conversations, and participants’ depth of inquiry and reflection.”

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