Aberdeen Gardens: Building a Community

"For blacks, by blacks."


As the Great Depression took its toll on America, both financially and psychologically, people around the nation were faced with the reality of being unable to support themselves. Americans from all over echoed the same sentiments--while they did not want handouts from the federal government, they did need a way to earn their living, and their self respect. In 1934, some Newport News residents applied for a grant to build a subsistence homestead, a government-funded planned community that provided housing if the residents agreed to grow most of their own food. The Newport News Homesteads, later named Aberdeen Gardens, was the only such project built for blacks, by blacks.

But what began as an experiment prompted by dire times turned out to be a community 60-years in the making. The determination of black industrial workers to control their own destinites--in the face of Depression conditions and occasional resistance--resulted in one of the New Deal's great successes.