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BOTANY 211: Changed Landscape of Wisconsin (Spring 2022) : Redlining Maps (and more)


About Redlining and Mapping Inequality

During the Great Depression, the federal government created a program aimed at encouraging home ownership for middle-income white Americans. Instrumental in this was grading neighborhoods based on desirability and hazards. The agency responsible for grading neighborhoods, the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC), assumed and insisted that the residency of African Americans and immigrants, as well as working-class whites, compromised the values of homes and the security of mortgages. These rankings have set the course of individual and community wealth for the past 70 years. Now, the original maps and graders notes have been digitized and geo-tagged to view over current maps.

As you explore the materials in Mapping Inequality, you will quickly encounter racist and outdated language: descriptions of the "infiltration" of what were quite often described as "subversive," "undesirable," "inharmonious," or "lower grade" populations. Remember that these were the terms used when the maps were created, it doesn't mean they were right then, and it is not okay to use them today.


Tips for Using Mapping Inequality

The above image shows the landing page for the city of Madison. The box on the left shows demographic info for the city. You can scroll through this box to see snippets of of descriptions from different areas.

Change your view by clicking "map options"  in the upper right.  Also note the search function here - search for a specific city, or click the outline of the U.S. to browse all available cities. 

Click on specific map sections to read that area's assessment. Then click on "Show Scan" to see the original remarks sheet.