November 14, 2023
Black Palm Springs Residents Fight The City For Reparations
The Section 14 Survivors Group is fighting to receive reparations as a result of what was done to their ancestors by the city of Palm Springs.
A California Attorney General report described what happened to Black residents of the city of Palm Springs in the 1960s as “a city-engineered Holocaust.”
According to ABC News, Pearl Devers claimed the city erased all evidence that her family home existed, telling them, “The home that my father built — it was burned, bulldozed over by the city fire department.”
Devers continued, “There’s no hint or a trace that we ever existed here. Not an ounce. That’s the painful part.”
Devers founded the Section 14 Survivors Group, a group that represents the interests of families of people whose homes were taken and destroyed. The group is fighting for reparations due to what was done to their ancestors by the city of Palm Springs.
Areva Martin, who is an attorney representing some of the families who lived in the area referred to as Section 14, told ABC News, “They were the only community willing to allow Black and brown families to live on their land.”
Martin continued, “The irony was, for a lot of these families, they were escaping the Jim Crow South only to find that some of the same Jim Crow laws and policies were very much prevalent in Palm Springs.”
According to city documents, Section 14 was an area Palm Springs officials wanted to renovate, citing “substandard housing conditions.”
In 1959, a law expanded the length of a lease in tribal land to 99 years, which made that property infinitely more attractive to developers.
“In 1956, the city of Palm Springs approached the conservator with a plan to raze Section 14…the city would then clear the land, using city funds,” documents from the city cited.
Devers says that what the city did by taking her family’s home destroyed her father.
“My mother became a single mom. And my father succumbed to alcohol; [he] could not handle it. The strong-willed man began to drink until he died.”
Palm Springs issued a formal apology in 2021 and took down the statue it had constructed of Frank Bogart, who led the city as its mayor during the 1960s. Though the city began initial discussions of reparations in 2021, no tangible benefit has been given to the descendants of those residents the city forced out of their homes.
The city issued a statement in lieu of accepting an interview request from ABC News, writing, “The City of Palm Springs has apologized for the action taken toward those affected by the Section 14 displacement. The City has an obligation, not only to those who were displaced, but also to its residents, businesses and taxpayers, to thoroughly investigate the history as it develops remedial programs that are fair to everyone.”
Martin filed a tort grievance against the city on behalf of the Section 14 families, estimating the value of the harm done to the families she represents at $2 billion.
Dieter Crawford, one of the group’s members whose family moved to Palm Springs from Texas and Mississippi, said he felt like the group is owed that sum because of the trauma the city passed to them.
“The generational trauma that was passed down to us, as well as the generational wealth that we lost.”
Martin, for her part, believes that her negotiations with the city will result in something tangible for the residents she represents, saying, “When this is done, and I have every reason to believe it will be done, it will be history-making.”