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University of Richmond project releases new interactive maps exploring city’s redlining history

The Digital Scholarship Lab’s popular mapping project now includes more locations and city introductions related to racially motivated financial and housing discrimination.

Trevor Dickerson

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The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond has released an updated version of its popular “Mapping Inequality” project.

The award-winning, open-access project focuses on redlining — the practice of denying financial services to residents based on race or ethnicity. Mapping Inequality is the largest collection of maps produced by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation in the 1930s. These maps are frequently used by journalists and scholars to analyze redlining and its consequences.

“HOLC’s documents and these maps contain a wealth of information about how government officials, lenders, and real estate agents discriminated against families of color and channeled capital to white families through mortgages,” said Rob Nelson, DSL director. “We still see the effects of redlining today in inequalities of wealth, health, and the environment.”

The newly released version of Mapping Inequality adds more than 100 new maps, mostly for smaller cities in states like the Dakotas, Vermont, and Oklahoma — places that have not typically been part of the broader conversation about redlining. The collection was last updated in 2019.

“One of our main goals was adding some smaller locations to allow even more people to interact with the project and learn about the history of where they live,” said Nelson.

The project also now includes introductions for 80 cities written by experts to further highlight the human elements of these maps.

“These introductions are written by historians, geographers, and other scholars who live in or have studied these areas,” Nelson said. “They provide incredible insights about local historical context that will help audiences more fully understand these maps and the history of discrimination in real estate in their communities.”

The latest project also includes additional materials for teachers to use these maps in K-12 and undergraduate classrooms.

Since the DSL launched Mapping Inequality in October 2016, about 2.5 million users have accessed the project.

Data and images from Mapping Inequality are frequently cited by national media, including The New York Times, PBS NewsHour, and Essence.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.