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“Undesign the Redline,” an exhibit open through May 31st, 2019 at the National Public Housing Museum in Chicago, centers on the history of “redlining” in Chicago, and how systematically denying loans and real estate services to majority-black areas created the economic and racial divides that persist in the city to this day.

The exhibit includes a timeline of redlining’s origins and ramifications, from the 1800s up to the present day. At one end of the timeline is the “Residential Security” map of Chicago, drawn in 1939 by the government-sponsored Home Owners’ Loan Corporation.

On this map, the city’s majority-black and immigrant areas are colored in red for “hazardous” or “yellow” for “declining”, while white, affluent areas are coded blue and green.

“I live in Bucktown, and it’s all red,” [visitor] Lorelei Stewart said. “It’s hard for me to imagine the neighborhood ever being thought of as ‘hazardous.'…It’s one thing to know about institutional racism and segregation, but it’s another to see a federal document that says my sheer existence, the color of my skin, is a threat.”

…The impacts of redlining on today’s economy are hard to miss. In the Chicago area, only 39 percent of black households own their home, compared to 74 percent of white families, according to a 2018 report by the Urban Institute.

Nationwide, black families hold just $5.04 for every $100 in white family wealth, according to figures from the Census Bureau report published in 2017.

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