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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Mapping Race and Segregation in Tacoma and Pierce County

In 1970, nearly one-third of the county's Black population were military personel at Fort Lewis. Most of the rest rest lived in Hilltop neighborhood near the bend in the I-5 freeway. Asian and Latino people numbered only 5,373 in 1970, a quarter of them stationed at the military base. Tacoma began to diversify and desegregate in the decades that followed. But as shown on the maps below, it has been a slow process.

Move through the decades. Select a race category, either by percentage or number of residents. These maps are hosted by Tableau Public and may take a few seconds to respond. If slow, refresh the page.

See how Racial Restrictive Covenants destroyed housing opportunities for families of color in Pierce County. HERE


Notes: Data are from the National Historic Geographic Information System (IPUMS). The most recent data is labeled 2020* but to improve accuracy we use an average of five Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS) samples from 2018-2022.

Race categories and census tracts: The Census Bureau adds and adjusts the boundaries of census tracts nearly every decade. It also changes the data it reports and the racial categories. For 1940, all nonwhites were reported as a combined category. In 1950, this became two categories, “Negroes” and “Other races.” Since most of the “others” would have been Japanese, Chinese, and Filipinos with small numbers of Native Americans, we relabeled this as “Asian/other races.” It was not until 1970 that a reliable set of questions identified people of Hispanic heritage. That is also when Indigenous Americans were first identified in census tract data.

Credits: These maps and tables were created by Anna Yoon, Brian Lam, Gihoon Du, Jiang Wu, and Yurika Harada using data and shape files from the National Historical Geographic Information System (NHGIS). The work was a class project for Geography 469 GIS Workshop taught by Professor Sarah Elwood-Faustino Spring 2017. James Gregory added the 2020 maps.

Source: calculated from Steven Manson, Jonathan Schroeder, David Van Riper, and Steven Ruggles. IPUMS National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 12.0 [Database]. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota. 2017.


Race and Segregation in Washington Cities and Counties 1940-2019

See these maps of race and segregation for other Washington counties.

Seattle 1940-2019
Spokane 1950-2019
Everett 1960-2019
Vancouver/Clark County 1960-2019
Tri-Cities 1970-2019
Census tracts all counties 1980-2019