Michael Wriston

Remainders is a catalog of things left behind.

In the mid-1940s, the city of Augusta, Georgia set aside a 140-acre plot of land southeast of downtown for the sale of homes and property by the city’s African American population. They called the neighborhoods Hyde and Aragon Park. Black families began buying land and building homes. Immediately outside the neighborhood, industrial yards began popping up. First a junkyard, then an industrial materials plant, then a wood treatment facility. Seven facilities operated on the immediate border of the neighborhood.

By the 1960s, the neighborhood housed over 200 families. There were no running water, plumbing, street lights, or paved streets. The 1980s brought the first signs of trouble. Increased rates of cancer and respiratory problems plagued the Hyde Park residents. The neighbors drove a series of studies that identified chemical run-off in the soil under their feet. The EPA and Augusta conducted the first clean-up operation in 1999 — a decade after the first traces of chemical runoff were identified, and over 50 years after the neighborhood was established.

In 2010, the council decided that a relocation program was in the best interest of the community. In fits and starts, the city relocated families out of Hyde Park with monetary incentives. As of 2016, a dozen families remained. Inhabited homes stood between rows of decaying and collapsing structures. The final families relocated in 2018, a full 78 years after the first black Georgians were authorized to buy land under Jim Crow property laws. The story of Hyde Park is a classic example of environmental racism.

 
 
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