"Undesign the Redline" exhibit opens in Columbus
Mt. Vernon Avenue was once a bustling business hub for Columbus' Black residents, anchoring the tight-knit Bronzeville neighborhood during the segregation era.
- Eventually, after decades of housing discrimination, the construction of I-71 sliced through the community. It was a devastating blow to what a former resident called the city's "center of African American life."
Why it matters: Discriminatory redlining in the 1930s led to historic disinvestment and disruption in Black neighborhoods — and the impact is still felt today.
- "Undesign the Redline," now displayed at the Main Library, explores this history in Columbus and nationwide.
- The exhibit offers solutions like reframing conversations, redesigning systems and reinvesting in communities.
The big picture: YWCA Columbus brought the traveling national exhibit here and created a committee of local experts to supplement it with historical documents, maps and local context, like the story of Mt. Vernon Avenue.
Flashback: A color-coded map of Columbus circa 1936 shows that neighborhoods of mostly poor and non-white residents were literally "redlined," or shaded red or yellow, and denied federal government-backed mortgage loans.
- Green and blue areas — "desirable" places like Bexley, Clintonville and Upper Arlington — could access the funds.
- It created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Redlined areas that declined from disinvestment were eventually targeted during interstate highway construction in the 1950s.
The bottom line: Columbus' highway system still snakes over mostly redlined areas today.
- Meanwhile, loan-approved neighborhoods were unharmed, allowing residents to pass along property — and generational wealth — to their children.
What they're saying: "Housing today, and the way neighborhoods formed — it all comes back to this very intentional decision," Angela O'Neal, the library's manager of local history and genealogy, tells Axios.
- "Most people are shocked. They haven't learned this history."
If you go: 96 S. Grant Ave. through March 15. On the first floor across from Carnegie's Cafe.
- 9am-9pm Monday-Thursday, 9am-6pm Friday-Saturday, 1-5pm Sunday.
- The library also hosts a panel discussion Saturday from 1-2:30pm.
💭 Alissa's thought bubble: This is an Ohio history lesson I wish I'd had in school — a thorough, comprehensive look at how events that can feel distant still affect the people of our community.
- There's a lot of tough information to unpack, but a visit is well worth your time.
More Columbus stories
No stories could be found
Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.