Levittown, America's first planned community, celebrated its 60th anniversary on Sunday. The Bucks County burg was founded by William Levitt as an idyllic American town for people at every income level. In collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright, Levitt designed six prefab houses people could choose from. He also conceived all the hallmarks of suburban communities that you either deride or aspire to today.
Levitt did not, however, intend for his homes to be sold to African-Americans. He forbade it. But in 1957, one black family bought from an owner and moved in anyway. It turned ugly immediately. From the Levittowners website:
[Their moving in] caused a big ruckus and emotions flared. Mobs gathered outside of the house and threw rocks and bottles, breaking windows. One neighbor who had helped the black family had a cross burned on his lawn. Daisy Myers became sort of the “Rosa Parks” of Levittown by refusing to leave The harrassment went on for days before state police were called in. From the Inquirer:
For the next week, local police watched while mobs screamed on the Myerses' lawn and in the street, and others blared round-the-clock music from an unoccupied house where a Confederate flag hung. When police failed to ask for help, the Myerses did.
The governor took over, state police pushed the racists a block away, and for a month the troopers stood between the Myerses and the white hate for which Bucks County at the time became known internationally.
Daisy Myers—who later became a school principal and then assistant to a congressman for 19 years—spoke to the Inquirer's Walter F. Naedele in 2003 without bitterness:
If her late husband had not changed jobs and moved the family back to his hometown of York in 1961, she said yesterday, "I probably would have been there today," living in the Levittown that she made better. · Recalling the 'utopia' that was Levittown [Inquirer]
· A pioneer remembers worst and best of Levittown [Inquirer]
· The Perfect Community [Levittowners]