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12AD.3.3 Mapping Inequality

This map shows an example of how neighborhood grading was applied in a practical situation. This specific map focuses on Oakland and Berkeley, CA. The colors displayed on the map corresponds to the neighborhood classifications used by the HOLC, described in source #2.
Robert K. Nelson, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano, Nathan Connolly, et al.
Mapping Inequality

Robert K. Nelson, LaDale Winling, Richard Marciano, Nathan Connolly, et al., “Mapping Inequality,” American Panorama, ed. Robert K. Nelson and Edward L. Ayers.

The image is a map used to describe for bank loan officers the neighborhoods and their quality ratings according to the color codes established by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC). This map shows the neighborhoods of Oakland, Berkeley, and the areas surrounding them in the East Bay. In the hills there are clusters of neighborhoods color coded green. In the 1930s these neighborhoods were considered to be exclusive, wealthy, and primarily white. To the west and along the shoreline there are a number of neighborhoods color coded red. These are the “redlined” neighborhoods that the HOLC characterized as having “detrimental influences in a pronounced degree.”

What do you imagine people living in the green or blue sections hoped for their neighborhoods in the future? What do you imagine the people living in the yellow or red sections wanted for themselves and their families? How do you think the color-coded ratings contributed to the long-term health of each area?

This source is meant to help students visualize how the practice of redlining according to racial discrimination can shape the way neighborhoods are formed. Teachers should highlight the fact that by the 1930s the redlined neighborhoods on this map had been settled by a large number of African American people who had fled segregation and racism in the American South, looking for greater economic opportunities in California. They were also populated by Chinese and Japanese people whose families migrated to the United States in order to find work on the railroads or in agriculture. The neighborhoods outlined in red were also home to those with Native American and Mexican ancestors whose families had resided on that land since the 1770s. Teachers should also support their students by sharing how the areas marked in green remain affluent and primarily homogeneous to this day. The spaces coded with red are now home to a population that has become even more racially and ethnically diverse and that typically experiences much more poverty. The racial segregation and differences in wealth in cities like Oakland and Berkeley are common to cities all over the United States. Similar maps exist for Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Atlanta, Chicago, and many other places where the HOLC surveyed.

Thomas Bros. Map of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda, San Leandro, Piedmont, Emeryville, Alameda