Race and the Oil Business

Like the rest of the Texas, the Permian Basin was marked by racial segregation and workplace discrimination. Oil drilling was heavily segregated, with nonwhite workers relegated to the most lowest-paying, dirty jobs as janitors, cooks, or manual laborers. However, race relations were very different in West Texas compared the eastern half. As the map below demonstrates, African Americans made up a much smaller percentage of the West Texas population, with most counties sitting below 10 percent.




Oil refining was a similar story. Black and Latino communities were relegated to the outskirts of both Midland and Odessa. In both cities these communities bore most of the cost of oil industrialization and expansion. The below map tracks Midland expansion after 1940. It locates the black and Latinx neighborhoods in the far southwest part of town. It demonstrates that these neighborhoods expanded north after World War II, mirroring regional migration to urban areas. It also shows that the southwest side of Midland was a meeting point for the city’s network of oil and gas pipelines.


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