Africatown's Happy Hills Neighborhood
I had a Professor of Economics in college tell his students "there is a lot of money to be made when dealing with poor people and children. Neither are in control of their own future and both allow others to make decisions for them. Businesses are allowed to build and tear down housing projects to move them around like nomads all in the name of good. While those in charge of solving the poverty problem are not interested in doing so because if they did their jobs would disappear. Millions of dollars are spent every year by our government to solve the poverty problem, however the problem still exists."
That was in 1972.
The Happy Hills Neighborhood sets on the southwestern section of the Africatown community. It is north of the Three Mile Creek and east of Lewis Quarters. That section of Three Mile Creek is the widest and deepest part of the creek and the area where the prize winning Bass was caught during a State Bass Fishing Tournament. After that last shipment of slaves arrived in Africatown and settled in Plateau and Magazine Point, they next moved west to inhabit the Happy Hills and Lewis Quarters Neighborhoods. Originally, Happy Hills was part of the "three hills" area. There was Happy Hills, Kelly Hills and Clay Hills. Today, Kelly Hills is down to only one street. The makeover of Bay Bridge road did away with most of Kelly Hills. The Happy Hills section started off as an extension of Chin Street from Magazine Point crossing Telegraph Road Westward. Houses and streets branched off along Chin Street for a couple of miles. Clay Hills was a large area made of clay with lots of trees and brushes leading down to the Three Mile Creek until a transformation of Clay Hills took place around the mid 60s.
During the mid 60s a new housing project (Josephine Allen) was built in the Clay Hills area. After that, the entire hills area became known as Happy Hills, especially the housing project area. Most of the resident moving to the Happy Hills Housing Projects area were from the Plateau and Magazine Point Neighborhoods. There were also those that came from other areas of Mobile and Prichard to help make a melting pot of sorts for the area. That melting pot of people did not start off well. As a matter of fact the Happy Hill housing complex became known as "Little Vietnam" because of all the fights that occurred daily between residents of the housing project. Kids would fight on the way to school, on the way from school and at night. It got so bad that there were more TV cameras in the neighborhood than policemen and residents were in the news more than actors from "Days of Our Lives." Eventually things got better and kids re-discovered sports and went on to begin winning football championships for both Blount and Vigor High Schools.
Photo: Josephine Allen housing project, aka Happy Hills. Credit: Annie Fedorowicz.
Today things are quiet in Happy Hills again as the residents of the housing project have been moved again. This time they have been moved to multi-unit housing in Prichard where it appears to me exits an effort to move Africatown to Prichard (but that is another story). Happy Hills today is back to where it was 50 years ago, Happy Hills and Kelly Hills. The big question today is what is planned for that large area of land owned by the Mobile Housing Board? Everyone is looking for land near the water and that land sets on the north shore of the largest portion of the Three Mile Creek. It would be perfect for a mid-level waterfront housing community within 5 minutes from downtown Mobile. How about Condos on the waterfront with a marina and boat launch area with restaurants and lounges?
One thing the area does not need is more heavy industries or Oil Storage Tanks to pollute the environment and threaten residents in the area. Mobile has just received a grant for $375,000 to make plans to make Roger Williams a Choice Neighborhood along the Three Mile Trace Project. Roger Williams sets on the south side of Three Mile Creek and Happy Hills is on the north side of The Three Mile Creek and has a greater historical value to Mobile and America.
Step up Mobile. Let's stop treating people like animals and start treating them with respect. When you do a good thing, more than likely it’s the right thing.