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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Part of a series of articles on
Racial Segregation
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Segregation in the US
Black Codes • Jim Crow laws • Redlining • Racial steering • Blockbusting • White flight • Black flight • Gentrification • Sundown towns • Proposition 14 • Indian Appropriations • Indian Reservation
May Laws • Japanese American internment • Italian American internment • Immigration Act of 1924 • Separate but equal • Ghettos

Originally used in Venice to describe the area where Jews were compelled to live, a ghetto is now described as a "portion of a city in which members of a minority group live; especially because of social, legal, or economic pressure." [1]



The word "ghetto" actually comes from the word "getto" or "gheto", which means slag in Venetian, and was used in this sense in a reference to a foundry where slag was stored located on the same island as the area of Jewish confinement (the Venetian Ghetto).[2] An alternative etymology is from Italian borghetto, diminutive of borgo ‘borough’.[3]

The corresponding German term was Judengasse (lit. Jew's Lane) known as the Jewish Quarter.


The term came into widespread use in Ghettos in occupied Europe 1939-1944 where the Jews were required to live prior to their transportation to concentration and death camps.

The definition of "ghetto" still has a similar meaning, but the broader range of social situations, such as any poverty-stricken urban area.

A ghetto is formed in three ways:[4]

  • As ports of illegal entry for racial minorities, and immigrant racial minorities.
  • When the majority uses compulsion (typically violence, hostility, or legal barriers) to force minorities into particular areas.
  • When economic conditions make it difficult for minority members to live in non-minority areas.

Jewish ghettos

In the Jewish diaspora, a Jewish quarter is the area of a city traditionally inhabited by Jews. Jewish quarters, like the Jewish ghettos in Europe, were often the outgrowths of segregated ghettos instituted by the surrounding Christian authorities or in World War Two, the Nazis. A Yiddish term for a Jewish quarter or neighborhood is "Di yiddishe gas" (Yiddish: די ייִדדישע גאַס ), or "The Jewish street". Many European and Middle Eastern cities once had a historical Jewish quarter and some still have it.

Jewish ghettos in Europe existed because Jews were viewed as alien due to being a cultural minority and due to their non-Christian beliefs in a Renaissance Christian environment. As a result, Jews were placed under strict regulations throughout many European cities.[5] The character of ghettos has varied through times. In some cases, the ghetto was a Jewish quarter with a relatively affluent population (for instance the Jewish ghetto in Venice). In other cases, ghettos were places of terrible poverty and during periods of population growth, ghettos had narrow streets and tall, crowded houses. Residents had their own justice system. Around the ghetto stood walls that, during pogroms, were closed from inside to protect the community, but from the outside during Christmas, Pesach, and Easter Week to prevent the Jews from leaving during those times. Starting in the early second millennium Jews became an asset for rulers who regarded them as a reliable and steady source of taxes and fees. They often went through great lengths to have them settle in their realm, offering protected settlements and endowing them with special "privileges". A first such ghetto was documented by bishop Rüdiger Huzmann of Speyer in 1084.

A mellah (Arabic ملاح, probably from the word ملح, Arabic for "salt") is a walled Jewish quarter of a city in Morocco, an analogue of the European ghetto. Jewish populations were confined to mellahs in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century. In cities, a mellah was surrounded by a wall with a fortified gateway. Usually, the Jewish quarter was situated near the royal palace or the residence of the governor, in order to protect its inhabitants from recurring riots. In contrast, rural mellahs were separate villages inhabited solely by the Jews.

During World War II, ghettos in occupied Europe 1939-1944 were established by the Nazis to confine Jews and sometimes Gypsies into tightly packed areas of the cities of Eastern Europe, turning them into de-facto concentration camps and death camps in the Holocaust. Though the common usage is ghetto, the Nazis most often referred to these areas in documents and signage at their entrances as Judischer Wohnbezirk or Wohngebiet der Juden (German); both translate as Jewish Quarter. These Nazi ghettos used to concentrate Jews before extermination sometimes coincided with traditional Jewish ghettos and Jewish quarters, but not always. Expediency was the key factor for the Nazis in the Final Solution. Nazi ghettos as stepping stones on the road to the extermination of European Jewry existed for varying amounts of time, usually the function of the number of Jews who remained to be killed but also because of the employment of Jews as slave labor by the Wehrmacht and other German institutions, until Heinrich Himmler's decree issued on June 21, 1943, ordering the dissolution of all ghettos in the East and their transformation into concentration camps.[6]

Post war

After World War II, many emigrated to the United States and Israel. With the cold war progressing, industry was spread across the major cities and work assignments were given out.

United States


The Irish immigrants of the 19th century were the first ethnic group to form ethnic enclaves in America’s cities, followed by Italians and Poles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Italian and Eastern European immigrants in the early twentieth century actually were more segregated than blacks of that era.[7] Most Europeans lived like bannahs immigrants, the second or third generation families were able to relocate to better housing in the suburbs after World War II if possible.

Other ethnic ghettos were the Lower East Side in Manhattan, New York, which, until the 1990s[citation needed], was predominantly Jewish, and Spanish Harlem, which was home to a large Puerto Rican community dated back to the 1930s. Little Italys across the country were predominantly Italian ghettos. Many Polish immigrants moved to sections like Pilsen of Chicago and Polish Hills of Pittsburgh, and Brighton Beach is the home of mostly Russian and Ukrainian immigrants.[citation needed]

In the United States, between the abolition of slavery and the passing of the civil rights laws of the 1960s, discriminatory mores (sometimes codified in law, or through redlining) often forced urban African Americans to live in specific neighborhoods, which became known as "ghettos."[citation needed]

African American ghettos

Urban areas in the U.S. can often be classified as "black" or "white", with the inhabitants primarily belonging to a homogenous racial grouping.[8]. Forty years after the African-American civil rights era (1955-1968), parts of the United States remain a residentially segregated society in which blacks and whites inhabit different neighborhoods.[9][10] Cities throughout history have contained distinct ethnic districts.[7]. Due to segregated conditions black neighborhoods in the United States have been called "ghettos". Many of these neighborhoods are in Northern cities where African Americans moved during The Great Migration (1914-1950) a period when over a million[11] African Americans moved out of the rural Southern United States to escape the widespread racism of the South, to seek out employment opportunities in urban environments, and to pursue what was widely perceived to be a better life in the North.[11] In the Midwest, neighborhoods were built on high wages from manufacturing union jobs; these in-demand jobs dried up during the decline of industry and the ensuing downsizing at steel mills, auto plants, and other factories starting in the early-1970's. [7] Segregation increased most in those cities with the greatest black in-migration and then crippling economic decline, epitomized in cities like Gary, IN.[12]

In the years following World War II, many white Americans began to move away from inner cities to newer suburban communities, a process known as white flight. White flight occurred, in part, as a response to black people moving into white urban neighborhoods.[12][13] Discriminatory practices, especially those intended to "preserve" emerging white suburbs, restricted the ability of blacks to move from inner-cities to suburbs, even when they were economically able to afford it. In contrast to this, the same period in history marked a massive suburban expansion available primarily to whites of both wealthy and working class backgrounds, facilitated through highway construction and the availability of federally subsidized home mortgages (VA, FHA, HOLC). These made it easier for families to buy new homes in the suburbs, but not to rent apartments in cities.[14]

In response to the influx of black people from the South, banks, insurance companies, and businesses began denying or increasing the cost of services, such as banking, insurance, access to jobs,[15] access to health care,[16] or even supermarkets[17] to residents in certain, often racially determined,[18] areas. The most devastating form of redlining, and the most common use of the term, refers to mortgage discrimination. Data on house prices and attitudes toward integration suggest that in the mid-twentieth century, segregation was a product of collective actions taken by non-blacks to exclude blacks from outside neighborhoods[19]

The "Racial" Provisions of FHA Underwriting Manual of 1938, included the following guidelines which exacerbated the segregation issue:

Recommended restrictions should include provision for: prohibition of the occupancy of properties except by the race for which they are intended …Schools should be appropriate to the needs of the new community and they should not be attended in large numbers by inharmonious racial groups.[12][20]

This meant that ethnic minorities could secure mortgage loans only in certain areas, and it resulted in a large increase in the residential racial segregation and urban decay in the United States.[21] The creation of new highways in some cases divided and isolated black neighborhoods from goods and services, many times within industrial corridors. For example, Birmingham’s interstate highway system attempted to maintain the racial boundaries that had been established by the city’s 1926 racial zoning law. The construction of interstate highways through black neighborhoods in the city led to significant population loss in those neighborhoods and is associated with an increase in neighborhood racial segregation.[22] By 1990, the legal barriers enforcing segregation had been replaced by decentralized racism, where whites pay more than blacks to live in predominantly white areas.[7] Some social scientists suggest that the historical processes of suburbanization and decentralization are instances of white privilege that have contributed to contemporary patterns of environmental racism.[23]

Despite mainstream America’s use of the term "ghetto" to signify a poor, culturally or racially-homogenous urban area, those living in the area often used it to signify something positive. The black ghettos did not always contain dilapidated houses and deteriorating projects, nor were all of its residents poverty-stricken. For many African Americans, the ghetto was "home": a place representing authentic blackness and a feeling, passion, or emotion derived from rising above the struggle and suffering of being black in America.[24] Langston Hughes relays in the "Negro Ghetto" (1931) and "The Heart of Harlem" (1945): "The buildings in Harlem are brick and stone/And the streets are long and wide,/But Harlem’s much more than these alone,/Harlem is what’s inside." Playwright August Wilson used the term "ghetto" in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984) and Fences (1987), both of which draw upon the author’s experience growing up in the Hill district of Pittsburgh, a black ghetto.[7]

Other ghettos

Chinatowns originated as racially segregated enclaves where most Chinese immigrants settled from the 1850s onward. Major Chinatowns emerged in Boston; Camden and Trenton, New Jersey; Chicago; Los Angeles, Oakland; San Francisco, California; New York City; New Orleans; Akron, Ohio; Philadelphia; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; Vancouver; Toronto and other major cities. Today, most Chinese Americans no longer reside in those urban areas, but post-1970s Asian immigration from China, Southeast Asia and the Philippines have repopulated many Chinatowns. Many Little Italys, Chinatowns (or Koreatowns and Little Tokyos) and other ethnic neighbourhoods have become more middle-class in recent times, dominated by successful restaurant owners, family-owned stores and businessmen able to start up their own companies. Many have become tourist attractions in their own right.[citation needed]

In the United States, many Hispanic immigrants from Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean concentrated in barrios located in cities with large Hispanic populations such as Orange County, California; Anaheim, Baldwin Park, Chino, Coachella, El Centro, El Monte, Fresno, Huron, Indio, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Modesto, Monrovia, Moreno Valley, National City, Oakland, Ontario, Rialto, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Ana, California; Alexandria, Virginia, Dallas, Houston, El Paso, and San Antonio, Texas; Allentown and Reading, Pennsylvania; Phoenix, Tucson, and Yuma, Arizona; Oklahoma City; New York City; Chicago and Sterling, Illinois. Many of these cities struggled with issues of crime, drugs, youth gangs and family breakdown. However, middle-class and college-educated Hispanics moved out of barrios for other neighborhoods or the suburbs. The barrios continually thrived by the large influx of immigration from Mexico, this largely due to the explosion of the Latino population in the late 20th century. The majority of residents in these urban barrios are immigrants directly from Latin America.[citation needed]

United Kingdom

The existence of ethnic enclaves in the United Kingdom is controversial.

Southall Broadway in London, where less than 12 per cent of the population is white, has been cited as an example of a 'ghetto', but in reality the area is home to a number of different ethnic groups and religious groups.[25][26] Analysis of data from Census 2001 revealed that only two wards in England and Wales , both in Birmingham, had one dominant non-white ethnic group comprising more than two-thirds of the local population, but there were 20 wards where whites were a minority making up less than a third of the local population.[27][28] By 2001, two London boroughs - Newham and Brent - had 'minority majority' populations, and most parts of the city tend to have a diverse population.

See also


  1. ^ ghetto - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  2. ^
  3. ^ The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition, Erin McKean, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517077-6
  4. ^ Ghettos: The Changing Consequences of Ethnic Isolation
  5. ^ GHETTO Kim Pearson
  6. ^ Ghetto in Flames Yitzhak Arad, pp. 436-437
  7. ^ a b c d e Ghettos: The Changing Consequences of Ethnic Isolation
  8. ^ Inequality and Segregation R Sethi, R Somanathan - Journal of Political Economy, 2004
  9. ^ SEGREGATION AND STRATIFICATION: A Biosocial Perspective Douglas S. Massey Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race (2004), 1: 7-25 Cambridge University Press
  10. ^ Inequality and Segregation Rajiv Sethi and Rohini Somanathan Journal of Political Economy, volume 112 (2004), pages 1296–1321
  11. ^ a b The Great Migration
  12. ^ a b c The Suburban Racial Dilemma: Housing and Neighborhoods By William Dennis Keating. Temple University Press. 1994. ISBN 1566391474
  13. ^ Central City White Flight: Racial and Nonracial Causes William H. Frey American Sociological Review, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Jun., 1979), pp. 425-448
  14. ^ "Racial" Provisions of FHA Underwriting Manual,
  15. ^ Racial Discrimination and Redlining in Cities
  16. ^ See: Race and health
  17. ^ In poor health: Supermarket redlining and urban nutrition, Elizabeth Eisenhauer, GeoJournal Volume 53, Number 2 / February, 2001
  18. ^ How East New York Became a Ghetto by Walter Thabit. ISBN 0814782671. Page 42.
  19. ^ The Rise and Decline of the American Ghetto David M. Cutler, Edward L. Glaeser, Jacob L. Vigdor The Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 107, No. 3 (Jun., 1999), pp. 455-506
  20. ^ Federal Housing Administration, Underwriting Manual: Underwriting and Valuation Procedure Under Title II of the National Housing Act With Revisions to February, 1938 (Washington, D.C.), Part II, Section 9, Rating of Location.
  21. ^ Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States by Professor Kenneth T. Jackson ISBN 0195049837
  22. ^ From Racial Zoning to Community Empowerment: The Interstate Highway System and the African American Community in Birmingham, Alabama Charles E. Connerly Journal of Planning Education and Research, Vol. 22, No. 2, 99-114 (2002)
  23. ^ Rethinking Environmental Racism: White Privilege and Urban Development in Southern California Laura Pulido Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 90, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 12-40
  24. ^ Smitherman, Geneva. Black Talk: Words and Phrases from the Hood to the Amen Corner. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.
  25. ^ We can't run away from it: white flight is here too | Anthony Browne - Times Online
  26. ^ Kerr, J., Gibson, A. and Seaborne, M. (2003) London from punk to Blair. Reaktion Books.
  27. ^
  28. ^

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GHETTO, formerly the street or quarter of a city in which Jews were compelled to live, enclosed by walls and gates which were locked each night. The term is now used loosely of any locality. in a city or country where Jews congregate. The derivation of the word is doubtful. In documents of the 1 rth century the Jewquarters in Venice and Salerno are styled "Judaea" or "Judacaria." At Capua in 1375 there was a place called San Nicolo ad Judaicam, and later elsewhere a quarter San Martino ad Judaicam. Hence it has been suggested Judaicam became Italian Giudeica and thence became corrupted into ghetto. Another theory traces it to "gietto," the common foundry at Venice near which was the first Jews' quarters of that city. More probably the word is an abbreviation of Italian borghetto diminutive of borgo a "borough." The earliest regular ghettos were established in Italy in the 1 ith century, though Prague is said to have had one in the previous century. The ghetto at Rome was instituted by Paul IV. in 1556. It lay between the Via del Pianto and Ponte del Quattro Capi, and comprised a few narrow and filthy streets. It lay so low that it was yearly flooded by the Tiber. The Jews had to sue annually for permission to live there, and paid a yearly tax for the privilege. This formality and tax survived till 1850. During three centuries there were constant changes in the oppressive regulations imposed upon the Jews by the popes. In 1814 Pius VII. allowed a few Jews to live outside the ghetto, and in 1847 Pius IX. decided to destroy the gates and walls, but public opinion hindered him from carrying out his plans. In 1870 the Jews petitioned Pius IX. to abolish the ghetto; but it was to Victor Emmanuel that this reform was finally due. The walls remained until 1885.

During the middle ages the Jews were forbidden to leave the ghetto after sunset when the gates were locked, and they were also imprisoned on Sundays and all Christian holy days. Where the ghetto was too small for the carrying on of their trades, a site beyond its wall was granted them as a market, e.g. the Jewish Tandelmarkt at Prague. Within their ghettos the Jews were left much to their own devices, and the more important ghettos, such as that at Prague, formed cities within cities, having their own town halls and civic officials, hospitals, schools and rabbinical courts. Fires were common in ghettos and, owing to the narrowness of the streets, generally very destructive, especially as from fear of plunder the Jews themselves closed their gates on such occasions and refused assistance. On the 14th of June 1711 a fire, the largest ever known in Germany, destroyed within twenty-four hours the ghetto at Frankfort-on-Main. Other notable ghetto fires are that of Bari in 1030 and Nikolsburg in 1719. The Jews were frequently expelled from their ghettos, the most notable expulsions being those of Vienna (1670) and Prague (1744-1745). This latter exile was during the war of the Austrian Succession, when Maria Theresa, on the ground that "they were fallen into disgrace," ordered Jews to leave Bohemia. The empress was, however, induced by the protests of the powers, especially of England and Holland, to revoke the decree. Meantime the Jews, ignorant of the revocation, petitioned to be allowed to return in payment of a yearly tax. This tax the Bohemian Jews paid until 1846. The most important ghettos were those at Venice, Frankfort, Prague and Trieste. By the middle of the ,9th century the ghetto system was moribund, and with the disappearance of the ghetto at Rome in 1870 it became obsolete.

See D. Philipson, Old European Jewries (Philadelphia, 1894) Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (1896); S. Kahn, article "Ghetto" in Jewish Encyclopedia, v. 652.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also ghetto




Ghetto n. (genitive Ghettos, plural Ghettos)

  1. Alternative spelling of Getto.


Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:



  1. (in Venice) A small area of Venice where the Jews of the city were once forced to live.

Simple English

File:Krakow Ghetto
Kraków ghetto

'Ghetto' derives from "getto", the Italian term for casting. Originally the word "ghetto" meant the Jewish quarter of an European town. The term "ghetto" is now commonly used to refer to any poverty-stricken urban area with a concentration of minority groups. It is also used to refer to areas that are considered to be undesirable. A ghetto was also the name given to the town Jewish people were sent to in the Holocaust

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