This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale: Documenting a Neighborhood in Transition
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This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale (TIOH) is a 1987 documentary that tells the hyper-local story of one neighborhood’s struggle with forces seen across the United States throughout the mid-twentieth century – housing segregation, white-flight, block-busting, and gentrification. Riverside Terrace, located in central Houston, was established as a Jewish neighborhood in the 1920s, in response to deed restrictions which barred these wealthy families from buying homes in Houston’s elite gentile neighborhoods. In the following decades, the same tactics were utilized to block wealthy black families from moving into Riverside Terrace. This changed in 1952 when a cattle rancher named Jack Caesar moved his family into the neighborhood. Within a year, four sticks of dynamite destroyed the family home’s front porch. Over the next decade, as more black families moved into Riverside, many white residents began selling their homes fueled by panic induced by concerns over home value. Set against the backdrop of the emerging civil rights movement in a still-segregated Houston, some residents began a yard sign campaign declaring “This Is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale,” to counter predatory real estate agents and publicly declare their commitment to Riverside’s integration. Despite this campaign, the flight continued, businesses followed former residents out of the neighborhood, and a freeway was constructed through the neighborhood, splitting it in two. By the 1980s, another wave of change was faced Riverside Terrace, with some parts of Riverside falling into disrepair, younger white homeowners began moving into the predominantly African American neighborhood. Director Jon Schwartz grew up in Riverside Terrace, and in many ways, this documentary is a love letter to his neighborhood. In 2010, Schwartz donated all records related to the production of TIOH, including all research materials, production notes, and interview footage to the University of Houston Libraries (UHL) Special Collections. Funded by a $25,000 grant, the all 113 raw interviews, originally captured on a dual system of 16mm film with full-coat mag soundtrack, have been digitized. All interviews are now available online via the UHL Audio/Video Repository, and an Omeka exhibit featuring an interactive map is available. While these materials are local in nature, they speak to trends that occurred throughout the United States and will serve as a resource for researchers studying urbanization, integration, and Houston history.