Mapping Inequality: Exploring Personal History in Redline Maps and the 1940 Census

Designing Inequality

The Detroit Eight Mile Wall is a one-foot-thick , six-foot-high  separation wall that stretches about 12 mile. It was constructed in 1941 to physically separate Black and white homeowners on the sole basis of race. The wall no longer serves to racially segregate homeowners and, as of 1971, both sides of the barrier have been predominately Black. Photo by John Vachon / Library of Congress

This is repost of a lesson I did in my social studies methods class at University of Portland. It explored the largely forgotten government policies that segregated nearly every major American city and metro area. We also looked at how those unconstitutional actions fostered inequality in America since their enactment in the 1930s.

Scroll down for student projects.


In preparation for this class,
students watched the video Segregated by Design.

class session – via Zoom

Class opened with the brief film Housing Segregation and Redlining in America: A Short History. I then put students into breakout groups and (using a Jamboard) they created mind maps of the legacy of redlined neighborhoods based on what they had seen in the two introductory videos. They brainstormed and developed visual comparisons that explored multiple factors such as – income, wealth, health, schools, policing, services, employment, environment.

Next I introduced the tools they would use for the lesson – digitized version of  1940 US Census and the website Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America . Mapping Inequality allows the user to explore the “redline” maps created by agents of the federal government’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) between 1935 and 1940. The maps are displayed over contemporary maps that make it easy to view where redline districts are today.

HOLC Map of Portland Or See interactive map here.



Next I took them to the the 1940 US Census and showed them how to look up street addresses and navigate to specific neighborhoods. I shared census pages from some Portland neighborhoods.

Sample “Best” and “Hazardous” neighborhoods

Best” A7 Arlington Heights District- Census page from 229 SW Wright Ave. in A7 | 229 SW Wright Today

Clarifying Remarks from HOLC map: Deed restrictions have expired but single-family residential zoning and topography give ample protection. Infiltration of Subversive Races is remote. Foreign-born families: 0% Negro: none. Residents: Executives, business and professional men, retired capitalists, etc.


Hazardous” D8 Southwest River District – Census page from 931 SW 1st Ave in Portland in D8. | Rooming house torn down. 931 SW 1st is now the World Trade Center

Clarifying Remarks from HOLC map: This is distinctly a workingmen’s rental district and approximately half of the population being employed in the industrial plants along the river.
Infiltration of Subversive Races has occurred. Foreign-born families 35%; Orientals 750 Chinese, 250 Japanese, 35 Filipinos, Negro 30%


How to search in Census of 1940

Note: it helps to refer to Blank 1940 Census form showing categories

You will “search by location where the person lived.” Begin by narrow search by state, county, city, street. 

After you click search, you have the option to add a cross street. 

It will take you to multipage document that may not exactly zero in on the intersection you wanted. You may need to scroll through some pages to get to that location. You can find the streets and house numbers on far left. (Street written vertically) 


The assignment

I wanted the student to draw a personal connection between the HOLC categories (best, still desirable, definitely declining and hazardous) and the data from the 1940 census. To demonstrate, I shared my mother’s family entry from 1940 census then showed that my grandparents and family were living in a HOLC designated “Definitely Declining” neighborhood. I shared some family photos of the house and neighborhood. Then we looked at the family home value in 1940 and shared how the neighborhood had steadily declined to the point that the home today is currently valued at less than one-half of the inflation-adjusted value listed in the 1940 census.

I knew that not all students would be able to find a family listing in the census nor might they ever have lived in a city mapped by HOLC. So I left the final product very open ended and invited them to make connections that worked for them.


Sample student work

A number of students were able to find family members on the census and family home in the HOLC maps


A few students focused on the history of homes they lived in.


Some students looked how the HOLC influenced residential options for immigrant groups


One student explored the neighborhoods around University of Portland


And another looked the HOLC ratings of neighborhoods that were home to some notable rappers.

Teach with Alternative Histories

First off – big shoutout to Jamie Clark – A talented educator to follow on Twitter @XpatEducator. See his collection of Teaching & Learning Resources. (Lots of great free downloadable templates.). I used one of his templates as the basis for this lesson

Here is a repost of the lesson I assigned my University of Portland pre-service teachers. Original here.


In honor of the historic nature of the 2020 election, students will have the opportunity to explore historical turning points and their own creativity by designing an alternative history. Students should have fun with this. It could be set in any era or region of the world. 

You should embed the slide show in a post. Include at least an explanation on why you feel this event was a historical turning point. 

Click here to download and then modify.

Student Work from this assignment.

I got very positive feedback from students who really enjoyed this lesson. They also thought it could be easily expanded so that students had to defend their alt histories. Another ideas was for the teacher to assign everyone the same real events and let students focus on creating and defending their own alt histories.

Here’s a few of the alt histories my students created.


Resources

HOW TO PREPARE YOU GOOGLE SLIDE FOR EMBEDDING ON BLOG POST
  1. Once you have finished slide show. Set Share to “Anyone with a link can view.”
  2. On toolbar click “File/Publish to web.”
  3. Click on embed
  4. Set “auto-advance” to every minute. (That will give viewer chance to navigate.)
  5. Click publish and you will get embed code to use with HTML Snippets.

Featured image by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Fight Racism with VR

Fight Racism with VR

These virtual and augmented reality programs allow the user to shift their point of view and experience the legacy of segregation in America. Students and teachers can “step inside” these immersive environments and feel the weight of systemic racism. These cutting edge approaches can inspire the next generation in America’s fight for social justice.
Descriptions by creators.

I am a Man VR

I Am A Man” VR Experience is an interactive virtual reality experience set to the historic events of the African- American Civil Rights Movement. Users will witness the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Worker’s Strike and the events leading to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. using the Oculus Rift VR headset. The VR project was created by Derek Ham and won an award for funding through the Oculus Launch Pad program.

Traveling While Black

Traveling While Black is a cinematic VR experience that immerses the viewer in the long history of restriction of movement for black Americans and the creation of safe spaces in our communities.

Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams and Emmy Award-winning Felix & Paul Studios’ film transports you to historic Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington DC. The viewer shares an intimate series of moments with several of the patrons of Ben’s as they reflect on their experiences of restricted movement and race relations in the U.S.

1,000 Cut Journey


1,000 Cut Journey is an Immersive Virtual Reality experience in which participants embody a Black male, Michael Sterling, experiencing racism as a child through disciplinary action in the classroom, as an adolescent encountering the police, and as a young adult experiencing workplace discrimination.

Mapping Amache

Mapping Amache: The Amache Internment Camp is located near Granada, Colorado. It is where over 10,000 Japanese-American citizens and persons of Japanese ancestry were forced to live from 1942-1945. It is also called Granada Relocation Center.

This weblog is intended to follow along with the long-term project of mapping this one square mile of earth where so much history took place. The basic map of Amache has been developed over the last few years. There are layers for things like roads, boundary, housing blocks, barracks and so forth. The challenge is to present this information in a way that makes it useful, accessible and honors the people who lived there.

Featured image credit
Girl at the March on Washington with Banner 8/28/1963
National Archives National Archives Identifier: 542030

Zoom Icebreaker: Virtual Name Tag

Zoom Icebreaker: Virtual Name Tag

I recently started the spring term teaching my edtech class via Zoom. I have 15 students, all but one, undergraduate education majors. Most know each other a bit from prior classes.

I had previously conducted one-on-one Zooms with each student, but I was still looking for a kickoff activity to start my first session.

A friend pointed me to this “face to face” icebreaker that I adapted to the virtual classroom. Inspired by: ID Numbers at Playmeo.

Here’s how:

I created a Name Tag image (view / download below) to use as background and uploaded to Jamboard to share with the class during our session. Tip: You can add the background to your first Jamboard slide then use duplicate to create more. Then I added each student’s name to one card – so that every student had their own name tag to work on.

My Sample

Married 30 years, 2 children, 2 grandchildren.

Educator for 50 years

Moved from Rochester to Portland in 2009

In 2020, I biked 1500 miles (that’s my trusty VanMoof X2)

I shared this sample I made for myself and gave them this instructions:

  • Add to your name tag using shapes, symbols, characters, sketches, images (your own or clip art).
  • Don’t make it too easy or too hard.
  • Be creative and have fun.
  • Then we’ll all try to “read” your name tag.

Students spent a few minutes creating their name tags on their assigned card. Note: Good idea to have them turn off cameras until they’re done. Then we went through each card and tried to guess what students “wrote” about themselves. Note: Good to use both Zoom chat and verbal guesses to increase responses.

It went great – students had fun, a chance to be creative and to find out more about each other. The entire activity took about 25 minutes at a comfortable pace. A great way to kick off a virtual session. For larger sessions, participants could share in smaller breakout groups.

You can preview or download the name tag background I made:


Feature image photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

Making Connections – Virtual Organizer

I have been teaching my pre-service social studies students historical thinking skills based on the work by Stanford History Education Group. (SHEG). I created – what I call a “Hexagonal Thinking Corroboration Tool” to help them work with corroboration skills. For content we used a selection of documents from the late 19th century curated around the them of rise of industrial America.

I’m sharing the idea to help teachers assist students in making connections. You can easily modify with new content boxes to match your instruction.

Download and copy Keynote file from Google Drive

In my Ed Methods class, students worked remotely in teams to explore the documents in my book, Progress and Poverty in Industrial America (available free at iTunes). Also available online as a Microsoft Sway. We used the 11 sources to create a graphic organizer that responds to the essential question: “How do we evaluate the social costs and benefits of technological innovations?”

  • Image showing "Hexagonal Thinking Corroboration Tool."

They had read all the documents in advance of class. As part of our Zoom class session, I put them in breakout groups and supplied them with a Keynote file “Hexagonal Thinking Corroboration Tool.” Corroboration prompts are from SHEG. This thinking tool was inspired by this post. Keynote design adapted from here.

Instructions:
Work with the members of your breakout group to corroborate the source readings.

  1. Move the source document boxes into spaces on the grid.
  2. Arrange the boxes so you can make connections between two or more source documents.
  3. When you have made an association between two or more documents, move one of numbers to that point
  4. Use the final slide to identify five key connections among the documents.
  5. Corroborate the sources in the connection and create an explanation of what you belief to be the most probable account.

As a final exercise, I supplied them with a Google Jamboard and asked them to evaluate the question “How do we evaluate the social costs and benefits of technological innovations?” in the context of the modern world.

Jamboard showing brainstorm of "Progress and Poverty Today"