Detroit Redlining Map 1939


Part of Detroit’s history of racial discrimination is comprised on housing discrimination, which in turn contributed to job discrimination, interpersonal racism, and continued racial inequity of opportunity. These areas of Detroit were targeted for “urban renewal” in the 1960s which displaced thousands of black residents to public housing complexes. Today these areas of Detroit have more vacancy (see map) than others either because the redlined properties were managed by slumlords whose properties deteriorated (see map) more quickly or from renewal efforts that didn’t consider the displacement of black residents.

The racial divisions we see in our neighborhoods today are the result of deliberate actions taken in the past. (State of Opportunity)

This segregation of housing, which was legal up until the 1980s, also furthered school segregation and the inadequate education of Detroit’s black children. More from State of Opportunity:

One of the clearest visual representations of how racist policies shaped our neighborhoods comes from a mapping project launched in the 1930s by the federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. The HOLC was created in 1933 in response to the Great Depression as a way to help stabilize the housing market in the U.S. It did so by refinancing home mortgages and reshaping the entire residential lending industry. Along the way, HOLC commissioned so-called “Residential Security Maps” for more than 200 U.S. cities. These maps served as a guide for home lenders, including banks and the Federal Housing Administration.

You can find other HOLC maps online at:

Check out this great map mashup of redlining 1939 and black neighborhoods in 1940 from Paul Szewczyk:


UPDATE: 01/14/22

I was able to recreate Paul’s image mashup with data from the 1940 Census from NHGIS and digitized HOLC areas from the University of Richmond “Mapping Inequality” project.

Notably these are not “redlining” maps, but one piece of the story of home disenfranchisement of Black Americans. Read more about Before Redlining and Beyond.

19 thoughts on “Detroit Redlining Map 1939

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