GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Home ownership is one of the keys to generational wealth.
A practice from the early 20th century made generational wealth-building through home ownership a challenge for people in cities across the country based on where they lived. That process was called redlining.
“Redlining refers to a set of racist New Deal-era policies in which federal officials marked black neighborhoods as risky investments,” Harvey D. Long said.
Long is the Student Success Librarian at North Carolina A&T State University. He showed us a map from the 1930s that was used by the Home Owners Loan Association.
The map was broken down into four colors. Green meant “best,” blue meant “still desirable,” yellow meant “declining” and red meant “hazardous.”
“…risky simply because the people living here or occupying this space are Black people,” Long said. “We found that even where we are right now at A&T, A&T is in a formerly-redlined community.”
He and his team wanted to know more about redlining and how it affected Greensboro. They got a grant to fund a series of conversations. The first one was last month at Dudley High School.
“I was stunned, actually, because there were so many people that came up after the panel and let me know this really their first time hearing about redlining,” said Greensboro NAACP president Rev. C. Bradley Hunt II after being part of that panel discussion.
According to that 1930s map, some of the wealthier more desirable neighborhoods in the city were Sunset Hills, Latham Park and Irving Park. Almost all of east Greensboro was red. What wasn’t red was yellow. Most of south and northeast Greensboro was also yellow. Fast forward to 2022, and not much has changed in the economic conditions in those areas.
“So we can see a direct connection to the value of homes from the 1930s to today,” Long explained. “Here in east Greensboro, property values remain relatively low compared to home values in some of the more affluent neighborhoods in Greensboro.”
“Redlining is something we are dealing with even today,” added Rev. Hunt. “The effects of redlining for people of color is that we are not able to still go into a bank and receive loans for home ownership, and that is not based on creditworthiness. It is not based on our ability to repay the loan. but it is based on, in many ways and in many reasons, the color of our skin and our socioeconomic location.”
They’re not the only ones looking at redlining. We talked previously to LaTida Smith, the president of the Community Foundation of Winston-Salem, about the foundation’s effort to show how redlining has affected the Winston-Salem community in their Undesign The Redline exhibit.
“I think we have an opportunity just to tell a story about what has already happened in our community, the history of ways the policies and practices have resulted in the disparities we see today, and then challenge our neighbors to think together about what we might do differently to dismantle those systems,” Smith said.
Harvey Long explained that part of the grant is heightening awareness and knowledge of redlining.
“The second part is that we want people to start thinking about repair, thinking about restoration, ways that we can restore our communities, specifically Black communities in Greensboro,” he added.
“So if we’re going to lift Greensboro, and we truly believe in one Greensboro, then we have to be honest about the things that have happened in the past, and this type of discussion allows us to do that. It allows us to look critically at what has transpired in the past, and it gives us an opportunity to grow together,” Rev. Hunt said.
“It hopefully should show them that Greensboro in some ways is a tale of two cities, and it’s important for white people to recognize that and to know that…all these things are connected in some way,”
Long said of what action he wants to see happen: “when you don’t invest in a community, you don’t have adequate resources then it leads to all other issues.”
The series continues next month and will wrap up in May with a conversation with author and journalist Nikole Hannah Jones.