Explanation and Framing (10 min)
Share an example map of redlining from Mapping Inequality. This map is of Cleveland, Ohio.
Facilitate a discussion with your students using these guiding questions:
What do you notice?
What do you wonder?
What do you think the colors mean?
Where do you think this is?
Explain to your students:
“We will take a look at some maps today while we learn about environmental justice. These maps are an example of systemic racism.”
Share definition of systemic racism:
"Systemic racism includes the complex array of antiblack practices, the unjustly gained political-economic power of whites, the continuing economic and other resource inequalities along racial lines, and the white racist ideologies and attitudes created to maintain and rationalize white privilege and power. Systemic here means that the core racist realities are manifested in each of society’s major parts [...] each major part of U.S. society—the economy, politics, education, religion, the family—reflects the fundamental reality of systemic racism." (Definition from sociologist Joe Feagin’s book Racist America: Roots, Current Realities, and Future Reparations ) (Adapted by ThoughtCo)
Continue explaining to your students:
“These maps were created during the New Deal era in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s. We will explore a website called Mapping Inequality. Before we begin exploring, I want you to know that there’s certain language in here that is racist, harmful, and violent.”
Read from the Mapping Inequality Introduction.
Read the second half of paragraph 1, which reads:
“HOLC staff members, using data and evaluations organized by local real estate professionals-lenders, developers, and real estate appraisers-in each city, assigned grades to residential neighborhoods that reflected their "mortgage security" that would then be visualized on color-coded maps. Neighborhoods receiving the highest grade of "A"-colored green on the maps--were deemed minimal risks for banks and other mortgage lenders when they were determining who should receive loans and which areas in the city were safe investments. Those receiving the lowest grade of "D," colored red, were considered "hazardous."
Read all of paragraph 5, which reads:
As you explore the materials Mapping Inequality, you will quickly encounter [offensive] language, descriptions of the "infiltration" of what were quite often described as "subversive," "undesirable," "inharmonious," or "lower grade" populations, for they are everywhere in the HOLC archive. Of the Bedford–Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, for instance, agents explained that "Colored infiltration a definitely adverse influence on neighborhood desirability although Negroes will buy properties at fair prices and usually rent rooms." In the Tompkinsville neighborhood in Staten Island, "Italian infiltration depress residential desirability in this area." In a south Philadelphia neighborhood "Infiltration of Jewish into area have depressed values." The assessors of a Minneapolis neighborhood attributed the decline of a "once a very substantial and desirable area" to the "gradual infiltration of negroes and Asiatics." In Berkeley, California, an area north of UC Berkeley "could be classed as High Yellow [C], but for infiltration of Orientals and gradual infiltration of Negroes from south to north." Such judgments were made in cities from every region of the country. The "infiltration of negroes" informed the grades of neighborhoods in Birmingham, Oakland, Charlotte, Youngstown, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and Chicago; the "infiltration of Jews" or "infiltration of Jewish families" in Los Angeles, Binghamton, Kansas City, and Chicago; the "infiltration of Italians" in Akron, Chicago, Cleveland, and Kansas City. The infiltration of Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Greek, Mexican, Russian, Slavic, and Syrian families was cataloged in other cities, always lowering the grade of neighborhoods.
Be sure to reiterate that this language is derogatory and offensive. These are primary documents from the 1930s and 1940s.
Group Exploration (15 min)
Place them in groups of 3-4. Students explore the Mapping Inequality tool.
Students should click “map options” and then “graded areas” to make it easier to use.
Students should click on a specific area and then click “show scan” to see the primary document.
Allow groups to explore anywhere in the United States.
Students write down noticings and wonderings as they explore as a group.
Full Class Discussion (10 min)
Students share noticings and wonderings with the entire class.
Learn more background information. (5 min)
Place students in groups of 3-4. Have them read through the following sources and make more sense of the information.
The History of Redlining (ThoughtCo)
Lead a brief discussion on the nature of redlining. Share the following definition with your students: (5 min)
Redlining - illegal discriminatory practice in which a mortgage lender denies loans or an insurance provider restricts services to certain areas of a community, often because of the racial characteristics of the applicant’s neighborhood (Source: Britannica)
Case Studies (15 min)
Each group of students will then explore one of the following case studies. The goal is for students to connect their knowledge of redlining with their case study.
Students should refer to the Mapping Inequality tool while investigating their case study in order to make connections.
Students can also use Google Maps to help them make connections on the maps.
Students take notes in their slideshow as they research and make connections.
Facilitate a discussion with your students. (10 min)
Guiding question: “How do we address environmental injustice today?”
Students should reference what they’ve learned - redlining and their own case study.
Further questions for discussion:
“If you were in charge of x city, what would you do?”
“What actual policies would you enact - at the city, state, or federal level?”
It may be best to group students of different abilities when they are exploring their case studies.