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How redlining impacted Indianapolis

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Indiana Historical Society will continue its redlining series with a virtual panel of local experts Sept. 29.

Indianapolis, like every other city in America, was shaped in the 1930s and ‘40s by redlining maps drawn by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, which color-coded areas based on desirability for mortgage lending.

It’s been 83 years since Indianapolis was redlined — three years before the invention of color TV — but the consequences linger.

“What Indianapolis looks like now really is indebted to those maps,” said Paul Mullins, an anthropology professor at IUPUI and one of the panelists for the event at 7 p.m. Sept. 29 on Zoom.

The event — “Making It Local” — is free, but you have to register online.

Mullins said it’s important to understand that redlining represented a shift in discrimination and segregation. Before the 1930s, it was more of an implicit practice by realtors, some city governments, homeowners, etc., but the practice of redlining brought all levels of government into the fold.

Unai Miguel Andres, a data analyst for The Polis Center at IUPUI and a panelist, said one of the obvious ways to observe redlining’s legacy is the race wealth gap because so many African Americans were effectively locked out of homeownership.

The average white family’s wealth is currently almost 10 times that of the average Black family’s wealth, according to Brookings Institution.

About 85% of Indianapolis was graded as “definitely declining” (yellow) or “hazardous” (red) in the 1937 map. At the time, 84% of the city was native-born white and a little more than 13% was African American.

Almost all of the area immediately surrounding downtown was either yellow or red. Most of the pockets of blue — designated as “still desirable” areas — were to the north and south. Only 5% of the city was “best,” denoted by green.

Jordan Ryan, an architectural archivist at Indiana Historical Society, recently superimposed a map of Interstates 65 and 70 on top of the redlining map, which shows the highways almost exclusively cut into red areas as they snake through downtown.

Stacia Murphy, an equity fellow at Kheprw Institute, said developing an understanding of the historical factors that helped shape Indianapolis will hopefully inspire new ways of thinking about solutions.

“I want people to realize that we have a wealth of community intelligence to draw from as it takes a diversity of perspectives to advance solutions that are sustainable,” she said.

The next part of the redlining series — “Developing the City” — is Oct. 27 and will look at how redlining influenced architecture, transit and urban planning.

The final panel — “Creating Equity Today” — will explore ways to create more equitable housing markets.

Indiana Historical Society invited Johns Hopkins University professor Nathan Connolly to lay the foundation for redlining last month. That video is on the organization’s YouTube page.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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