The Next 400: Communities continue to suffer from redlining’s racist effects

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 5:40 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - “The actual practice of redlining goes back to the 1920′s,” said Dr. Todd Michney, a professor at Georgia Tech and Cleveland native.

He knows well about the history of housing discrimination in Northeast Ohio.

The book he authored, “Surrogate Suburbs: Black Upward Mobility and Neighborhood Change in Cleveland, 1900-1980,” covers the topic extensively.

The origins, he said, begin with ‘The Great Migration.’

“Black southerners were fleeing Jim Crow. So they were escaping the South, but they were also attracted to the jobs that were available during WWI in factories,” said Michney.

Beginning in the early 1900′s, millions of Black Americans moved to manufacturing hubs during the Industrial Revolution. Cleveland was one of those destinations.

19 News unearthed a study commissioned by the city of Cleveland that tracked population growth by race between 1910-1959.

Figures show the number of “non-white” residents grew from roughly 8700 in 1910 to more than 243,000 in 1959.

Reaction to this population explosion was blunt—and racist.

“White people, as more black people moved to Cleveland, were less willing to share space and live next to them,” said Michney. “They would react violently if African Americans started moving out of the area they considered acceptable.”

And thus, the practice of hemming in Black people into certain areas began. Lending institutions drew up maps that deemed largely white areas as good and minority areas as bad.

“If you trace the financial dimensions of it. These houses have not appreciated in value as much, so that’s had all kinds of effects,” noted Michney. “Any new development after 1920, you could basically expect to find deed restrictions, saying this property cannot be sold to a black person.”

“There was an unwritten rule; real estate agents wouldn’t show any house east of Lee Road,” said Doris Garvin, Shaker Heights resident.

Garvin remembers what it was like when her husband’s family tried to buy a home in Shaker Heights. That was in 1962. They wound up using a straw-buyer, who was subsequently sued for his actions.

These tactics have long since been outlawed. However, their effects are still being felt today.

Areas that were redlined decades ago still lag in home value, access to education and health care, broadband penetration, and more.

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