The Folded Map Project invites audiences to open a dialogue and question how we are all impacted by social, racial, and institutional conditions that segregate the city for individuals to understand how our urban environment is structured.
Chicago is one of the most segregated cities in the United States. This is a direct result of racist policies that have transpired over the course of more than a century. After large numbers African American migrated into Chicago starting in 1916, the Chicago Real Estate Board instituted racially-restrictive policies that prevented blacks from purchasing, leasing and occupying housing beyond a set of small boundaries on the South Side of the city. When black residents eventually moved into largely white neighborhoods, real estate agents encouraged white homeowners to sell their homes and move to the suburbs, convincing them their home values would soon drop. Housing segregation has declined gradually in the Chicago area in the past ten years. Nonetheless, people of color still do not have great mobility within the city. Historically, Chicago residents have held preconceived notions of different neighborhoods in the city, based on lines drawn in the past. With growth has come new types of opportunities and problems while long-standing issues remain unresolved. As the city pushes forward into the new eras, the responsibility to change is on us all.
The practice of redlining has its roots in the 1930s housing market. Major cities across the United States were undergoing significant demographic changes with influxes of African Americans as well as immigrants, especially Jews. The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) was created to refinance home mortgages and minimize foreclosures. However, rather than determining who was a risk for investment based on finances, the HOLC explicitly denied loans on a basis of race. Neighborhoods populated by minorities were color-coded red and given the lowest possible grade of “D”. Aside from making homeownership difficult, the practice of redlining discouraged investment in resources such as schools, shops, banks, and community spaces. While certain neighborhoods dealt with a steady decline in investment and services, newer, mostly white, suburban communities enjoyed an increase in investment. The practice of denying loans based on race is illegal today, but the effects of redlining are still seen in the segregated neighborhoods of Chicago and other major cities. To this day, banks deny minorities mortgage loans more often than white loan-seekers. This process contributes to the fact that there is a greater disparity in homeownership between whites and African Americans today than there was during the Jim Crow era.