Rebecca Marchiel on Redlining, Financial Deregulation, and the Urban Reinvestment Movement

The iconic maps, created by the government’s Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) during the New Deal to help assess and guide lending in urban areas, have served as powerful illustrations of red-lining. HOLC criteria drew heavily on the racial logics employed by lenders, developers, and real estate appraisers. Thus, “A-rated” neighborhoods, those associated with the least risk for banks and mortgage lenders, tended to be exclusively white. While, “D”-rated areas, deemed the most-risky, included large numbers of black and/or other non-white residents. These neighborhoods were color-coded red on HOLC maps, hence the term red-lining. They were often denied home loans.

HOLC and redlining had a dramatic effect on American cities with consequences lasting to the present day. Yet, the image of the HOLC’s color-coded maps suggests a more static relationship between financial institutions and urban America than actually existed. In this episode, Rebecca Marchiel offers a riveting account of the urban reinvestment movement, a multi-racial coalition of activists that opposed redlining as part of a broader effort to save and re-install “financial common sense” on their neighborhoods. In doing so, Marchiel furthermore reveals the various the obstacles they faced from bankers, politicians, and government officials, who increasingly came to see financial deregulation as the only way to forward amid the economic challenges of the 1970s. What follows, is an inspiring, and at time heartbreaking history, of community activism, financial regulation, and competing visions undergirding investment in U.S. cities during the late 20th century.

Check out the episode here!

Rebecca K. Marchiel is an Assistant Professor in the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History at the University of Mississippi. She is the author of After Redlining: The Urban Reinvestment Movement in the Era of Financial Deregulation.

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