Mapping Inequality

The digital history project that I will be reviewing is Mapping Inequality(Redlining in New Deal America). It looks to gather documents from the federal government’s Home Owners Loan Corporation between 1935 and 1940. What these documents contain is basically information on how desirable a certain area of land is worth based on the demographic of those who live there and the amenities that it includes. Looking back on it now it shows the lines between the white and wealthy areas of the city and the poor and more diverse parts of the city. They group this information on a map of the United States and there are little bubbles that contain the information for a specific city. When zoomed in on a city different parts are colored based on a sort of raking of how desirable they are. It was made by groups of students and faculty from the University of Richmond, Virginia Tech, and the University of Maryland. It was a very interdisciplinary act to get this project working with the different schools having something different to add to the table. This project best falls under the JAH description of an essay, exhibit, or digital narrative because it is a map.

The intended audience for this work would be the general public. This is because it is something that could be of interest to anyone today especially because these lines that were painted back then still have an effect on communities today. The purpose of this work is to give a graphical view of information that would be inconvenient for a person to obtain. It does fit under the body of scholarship because it was made under the supervision of three distinguished schools. There were also many Ph.D. and grad students involved to ensure the project was done properly. Also, they used data that is publicly available so if it was needed they could be fact-checked fairly easily.

The page is incredibly easy to navigate. Basically, everything can be clicked on which leads one to go down rabbit holes of looking at different cities and what areas were deemed better or worse. It functions very well and there are not any major flaws. It has a very immersive experience that allows the user to stay engaged. I really love the visual design of the site. The cities being represented as circles that are colored based on the amount of each category in them is a really good idea. It leads one to look at some cities that they might not have clicked on because they have a high amount of a certain level and then they might click on it because they want to learn more about why that is. This being a digital project only furthers its ability to convey this information to people. It could not be possible in a more traditional sense. It being an interactive website is a really interesting way for this information to be displayed. This is the type of project that might not get a display at a museum or similar place so a digital project is perfect for it.


  1. I did enjoy visiting this site thoroughly! I agree that this project would be ill-equipped to be in a museum simply because of the scale of the whole map. I’ve seen something similar to this regarding historic redlining at the Minnesota History Museum in Minneapolis, though it was just focused on the Twin Cities, and not other major cities across the United States. I am originally from Duluth, MN so I decided to click on Duluth first. The results are surprisingly accurate to how the city is laid out today, though there are “renovation” projects going on in areas that are predominantly low-income/minority areas like Lincoln Park. I, too, thought there were good descriptions of certain areas, though I was disappointed that they didn’t label each area with a specific neighborhood, opting instead to describe it with only some (un)official neighborhood names being present in some entries. I would absolutely use this resource, as both a general audience member and historian, to showcase how systemic income inequality is in major U.S. cities then and now.

  2. I only have a bit of knowledge in the history of urban inequality (not sure if that’s the term), but I didn’t know that there was a project like this one that uses a digital map! Most of the resources on this issue that I’ve come across have just been in the form of a readable document. It’s also great to see that it is a project that is easy to navigate and understand, since I’m sure a good portion of the general public are still confused on how to use a digital map. This seems like a good resource to understand how urban inequality functions, especially with how it was back in the mid-1930’s and how it still exists today.

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