An image of the original Foster School, in the 5th Ward constructed in 1905 and later destroyed by fire.

New U.S. Census data shows that only 18% of Evanston’s Black residents now live in the census tract that contains the formerly all-Black and long-shuttered Foster School.

The idea of creating a new school in the neighborhood near the old one has been a recurring theme in debate around racial equity issues in Evanston and is currently one of the ideas under consideration as the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board considers possible student reassignment and school consolidation plans.

Foster was closed as a neighborhood school in 1967 as part of District 65’s desegregation plan and closed completely in 1979 when the magnet school program that had been housed there was moved to the former Skiles Junior High School, located in census tract 8096.

In 1950 the population of census tract 8092, where Foster School is located, was 97% Black and 74% of all Black residents of Evanston lived in that census tract, with most of the rest in the adjoining 8093 and 8096 tracts.

By 1970 the Black population of the 8096, 8097 and 8098 census tracts had increased dramatically. And by 1990 the Black population of the 8101, 8102 and 8103 census tracts in south Evanston also grew substantially.

After 1990 the share of Black residents in the 8092 census tract declined as an increasing number of Hispanic families moved into the neighborhood.

2020 Census data released last week shows that just 52% of residents of the west Evanston 9092 census tract now identify as being Black and not also of any other race.

Some of the shift in figures over the years may be a result of changes in how the census collects racial data.

The 2020 census included more detailed questions about racial categories that made it easier for people to identify as multi-racial, and that is believed to be one factor in a 268% increase in the share of Evanstonians who identified as being of two or more races this year compared to in 2010.

In 1990 nearly 23% of Evanston residents identified as Black and not multi-racial. That declined to 18% by 2010, when the city’s total population stood at 74,486. In the 2020 census 16% of Evanston residents identified as Black and not multi-racial, while the city’s total population stood at 78,120.

Meanwhile the white population declined from 66% to 59% of the total as the number of people identifying as Asian, some other race or multiracial increased.

Of the 19 census tracts in Evanston in the 2020 U.S. Census, nine do not contain a District 65 school, while the rest have between one and three.

The census data indicates that the median Black population of the tracts that have a school is 16.6%, while the median Black population of the census tracts that don’t have a school is 6.77%

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.