Dec 12, 2023 - News

San Antonio's redlining map gets added context

A redlining map of San Antonio. Screenshot: Mapping Inequality project, Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond

A redlining map of San Antonio has a new written introduction that adds historical context to segregation in the city and its ongoing impacts.

Why it matters: "We still see the effects of redlining today in inequalities of wealth, health and the environment," Rob Nelson, director of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond, said in a statement.

Driving the news: The university, which launched a collection of redlined maps in 2016, released Monday new introductions written by experts with local knowledge of 80 cities, including San Antonio.

  • An updated version of the project also adds more than 100 new maps, mostly for smaller cities.

Context: In the 1930s, the U.S. government created redlined maps for most major American cities, per the Mapping Inequality project. The maps showed which neighborhoods were considered risky for banks and mortgage lenders, grading areas in one of four categories from "best" to "hazardous." Hazardous areas were red.

  • Neighborhoods home to Black residents or other minority groups were deemed "a threat to the stability of home values," per Mapping Inequality.

Details: Gene Morales, a historian from San Antonio with a doctorate, wrote the new introduction to the San Antonio map. He tells Axios he wanted to introduce a timeline of racial segregation in San Antonio to help people understand the city's ongoing development.

  • By the early 1900s, three racially segregated areas emerged in San Antonio, Morales wrote: white European Americans on the North Side, Mexican and Mexican American residents on the West Side and Black residents on the East Side.

Separately, racially restrictive covenants in deeds, and in some city ordinances, prevented Black and Mexican Americans from living in many San Antonio neighborhoods. Mahncke Park, just east of Broadway near Brackenridge Park, did not allow Black residents, Morales wrote. It was blue — meaning "still desirable" — on the map.

  • Alamo Heights restricted Black residents and people with tuberculosis, who were often associated with the Mexican and Mexican-American communities. The city was categorized as blue.
  • By the 1960s, highway construction "solidified the distinct segregated boundaries of San Antonio neighborhoods," Morales wrote.

Areas redlined on the San Antonio map include the near East and West sides, and much of the South Side. Those communities now face ongoing challenges affecting their wealth and health.

  • On the East Side, longtime residents face displacement due to rising property values.
  • The urban heat island effect, especially pronounced on the West Side, means hotter neighborhoods with fewer trees.
  • The recent school closure wave in San Antonio is also occurring across formerly redlined communities on the South, East and West sides.

The bottom line: "The economic segregation of (San Antonio) is still affected by these maps," Morales tells Axios.


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