Explore Southside

While Civic Park has been the target of many home demolitions, Flint’s Southside illustrates even more poignantly the physical and social effects of urban renewal. One of Flint’s oldest black neighborhoods, Southside, (occasionally referred to as Floral Park) developed into a diverse working-class residential district during the early twentieth century and became a major destination for black workers migrating from the southern US. As discriminatory lending practices coalesced into formal redlining policies in the 1930s, Southside became, along with the grittier St. John neighborhood to the north, one of the few places black people could buy homes. These and other racially discriminatory policies created a self-reinforcing cycle of municipal neglect and white flight that increasingly depicted Floral Park as “blighted” or “slums” and became the target for destruction under urban renewal programs in the 1960s. Civil rights activists, initially in favor pf urban renewal, quickly turned against the programs when it became clear “renewal” often meant the destruction of the neighborhoods and removal of the residents.

A particularly stark example is the highway interchange connecting Interstate 69 south of Flint’s downtown area with Interstate 475, a bypass route running east of the city. Built in the 1970s, this highway construction project resulted in the demolition of large sections of both St. John and Floral Park neighborhoods after the removal of the residents.

Use this interactive map to see how the construction of the Floral Park Interchange transformed a Southside neighborhood.

Looking at Southside though the Green Book: A historical Guide for Black Travelers.

A major consequence of the rise of the automobile in the US was the increased mobility it brought to those who could afford a car. Increasing numbers of America families used a car for both business and pleasure, and an entire industry sprang up to provide for travelers in the form of service stations, motels, and printed road maps and road travel guides. But for black families or professionals traveling by car, the supposed “freedom” brought about by the automobile was heavily tempered by Jim Crow. Black travelers found that most services and amenities in towns they visited were closed to them.

Published annually between the 1930s and 1960s, the Green Book was a town-by-town guide that listed services and amenities catering to black travelers. Flint's Southside served as an important stop for black travelers; nearly every stop listed in the Green book for Flint was located there. The Green Books are important historical documents: maps of the black travelers’ landscape in the US before the major transformations of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. It also serves as a record of black entrepreneurship, as many of the business listed in the Green book were owned and operated by black businessmen and businesswomen. For Flint, the Green book also records a "lost" black landscape, as the Floral Park interchange (See above section) destroyed most of the locations black travelers using the Green Book would have been familiar with.

Learn more through this interactive StoryMap.