It was called “the Black Neighborhood”, but River Street was much more than that
In a small corner of town, measuring less than 0.3 square miles, the Boise, Idaho’s largest multi-racial neighborhood was formed during the early twentieth-century. By the 1970’s, it was gone…or, was it?
The River Street Digital History Project was created to commemorate the history of this place that played a central role in the racial dynamics of Boise, Idaho. Here, the reminiscences of former residents and fragments of archival documents have been digitized. The central goal of this project is to transform existing memories of this neighborhood into digital files that can be shared around the world.
Photographs, newspaper articles, maps, and audio files from interviews with former residents have all been digitized and compiled here. The River Street Neighborhood was a diverse, multi-racial enclave where African Americans, Basque immigrants, Euroamericans, Japanese immigrants and persons from many other ethnicities all came together to forge a friendly neighborhood where familiarity trumped race. The place was known for its African American residents, but it was actually inhabited by a cross section of the world’s nationalities and ethnicities.
African Americans have never comprised more than 0.5 percent of the population of Idaho or Boise; however, they played an essential role in the racialization process there. In order to fashion a unique racial group in Boise, Euroamericans needed to separate themselves from social groups that were designated as “other.” This separation was not only social, but also geographic. River Street was the spatially segregated area where the “others” lived. It was not only limited to people of color. Other Euroamericans found themselves caught up in this process because of where they lived in Boise.
The River Street Digital History Project is an attempt to explain the complex racial dialogue as it relates to a small corner of Boise, Idaho during the twentieth century. Lessons learned from this project will help inform future Boiseans and beyond.
Click here if you want to see the digitized document archive:
Click here if you want to hear about the community as it is recalled by former residents
Click here if you want to take a virtual tour of the River Street Neighborhood
Click here if you want to know where this research is going