Houston is gentrifying more quickly than the other Texas cities, and four predominantly Black neighborhoods, the Fifth and Third Wards, and Independence Heights and Sunnyside, are becoming proportionally more Hispanic and whiter. In the 1800s the Third Ward was what architectural historian Stephen Fox referred to as “the elite neighborhood of late 19thcentury Houston, a silk stocking neighborhood of Victorian-era homes” where whites lived in the lower part of Third Ward, and African Americans were segregated in shotgun shacks north of Truxillo Street with Alabama Street being the dividing line between the black and white areas. Now Emancipation Avenue is the street widely viewed as the center of Houston’s music culture, the “main street of Black Houston.”
Third Ward is home to some of the most celebrated African American artists, activists, educators, and leaders. John Biggers, George Floyd, and Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins all spent time in “The ‘Tre”. In 1970, Carl Hampton, one of America’s most dynamic and influential young Black civil rights leaders was assassinated by HPD in Third Ward for providing decent clothing and food on behalf of the People’s Party II the community members whose had basic needs were unmet. Beyoncé is from the Third Ward area and it’s featured in her music video No Angel. Her Drunk in Love and Pretty Hurts singles are remembrances of her neighborhood.
Houston rappers often reference Third Ward in their lyrics. Rapper Drake also publicizes the Third Ward as his adopted home in his music. “Know I do this [expletive] for Third Ward already/ Know I do this [expletive] for H-town already.” Some of the old Third Ward churches still call back members who now live in Missouri City and other suburbs. The Trinity United Methodist Church, which began in 1848, is the oldest African American church congregation in the City of Houston.
In 1910 the construction of Union Station caused the “residential character of the area to deteriorate” according to Ralph Bivens of the Houston Chronicle. The area “began a long downward slide toward the skid row of the 1990s.” In 1938 Cuney Homes, a public housing complex, opened across from Texas Southern University. It was updated in 1997. In 2004 Third Ward had the most “you buy, we fry” fish restaurants in the City of Houston. Gentrification in the historic Third Ward began in 2016 when Highway 288 claimed that too many Blackowned homes were in its way and so were condemned.