New Online Archive Documents Bank Redlining Practices in the 1930s

mapA new website hosted by the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond offers visitors a look at a series of maps from the Home Owners Loan Corporation that document the practice of redlining during the New Deal era.

The Home Owners Loan Corporation was charged with assessing risk so banks could determine whether or not they should grant home mortgage loans. The agency produced maps of dozens of U.S. cities showing different neighborhoods that were colored coded to show lenders the perceived level of risk in issuing loans. The neighborhoods with the highest risk for lenders were shaded red, producing the term “redlining.” Often these neighborhoods had the areas with the highest percentage of Black residents in the particular city.

In addition to the maps, the website offers forms giving details of particular city neighborhoods written by Home Owners Loan Corporation officials. Some of these descriptions were offensive. For example, a description of one neighborhood of Wichita, Kansas, said it had “heavy Negro concentration . . . terribly run down .. with attendant stench.” The description also said that a “population increase would only be through lack of birth control among Negroes.”

The maps were previously available at the National Archives in Maryland, but this new project makes them available to a far larger audience online. Researchers from Virginia Tech, Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Maryland participated in the online project.

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