An Analysis of Housing Distress and Remedies in Tuskegee, Alabama during World War II
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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The evaluation of a proposed military air base necessarily takes into account the suitability of its locale; in particular, with regards to the terrain, certain logistical concerns, and the local infrastructure and populace. Given that proposed locations are less than ideal, many problems are overcome with time—given that time is available. But what happens when unforeseen events overtake plans? With this idea in mind, this dissertation first focuses on housing conditions in Macon County, Alabama that became the World War II home base of the Tuskegee Airmen fighter pilots. A military air base in Macon County was proposed for construction in late 1940. The dissertation utilizes data from the 1940 US Housing Census to explore the availability of housing and its suitability with regards to electricity, running water, and repair. The town of Tuskegee is dissected with regards to racial areas between the white living areas and those of African-Americans. The influence of Tuskegee Institute and Tuskegee’s African-American Veterans Hospital on local housing conditions is analyzed. Various aspects of this housing market are then examined with respect to the original 1940 housing requirements of the military. The base population increased by approximately six times over original estimates by war’s end. Adequate housing for white personnel focused primarily on availability. Results were similar for African-Americans with an added emphasis on the lack of amenities. The latter issue made the available housing issue more dire and immediate. Reactionary solutions to this unplanned increase is explored in the post-Pearl Harbor environment, with remediation efforts hampered by the lack of immediacy by federal agencies. This not only delayed the construction of the two original housing projects, but intensified the housing issue until additional government housing was both authorized and constructed. These projects, all of which were occupied by both military and civilian in-migrant African-Americans, considerably lessened the burden on local housing although not eliminating it. White in-migrants, consisting almost entirely of military personnel after construction was completed, were not supported with government assistance with regards to housing. As a result, the issue was alleviated by a significant number relocating to Auburn, Alabama.