University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab has released “Renewing Inequality,” a mapping project examining American cities impacted by urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 60s.

Urban renewal refers to programs of land redevelopment in cities and can include the relocation of businesses, the demolition of structures and the relocation of people. The process played an important role in the history and demographics of many cities.

“Renewing Inequality” particularly calls attention to families displaced by urban renewal projects from 1950-66.

“For a quarter century the federal government provided funding for cities large and small to clear blighted slums in order to make way for public housing, highways, industry and commerce,” said Robert K. Nelson, director of the Digital Scholarship Lab. “No doubt we could point to positive outcomes of these programs, but we can’t ignore that hundreds of thousands of families were displaced from their homes and neighborhoods in the process.”

“When you drill down into the data, you learn a lot about the racial implications of these projects,” Nelson said. “For example, in Baltimore, 74 percent of the more than 8,600 families displaced were families of color. That’s a trend you see throughout.”

“Renewing Inequality” is now available online. Nelson anticipates teachers and students at the high school and college levels and journalists will use the map. This latest project serves as a companion piece to “Mapping Inequality,” the largest collection of maps produced by the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) in the 1930s.

The open access maps are part of the larger American Panorama project, a historical atlas of the United States for the twenty-first century. American Panorama maps have been featured by The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, National Geographic and more.

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The American Panorama project is funded in part by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Racial Implications

“When you drill down into the data, you learn a lot about the racial implications of these projects. For example, in Baltimore, 74 percent of the more than 8,600 families displaced were families of color. That’s a trend you see throughout.”

-Robert K. Nelson, director of the Digital Scholarship Lab

Director, Digital Scholarship Lab
19th century United States
Digital humanities