Mapping Repentance III & IV: Our Racialized Neighborhoods

In sessions III and IV, we’re looking at how it came to be that neighborhoods are largely segregated by race – and the wealth disparity that goes alongside that pattern.

Session III consisted in watching the episode “The House We Live In” from the PBS series “Race: The Power of an Illusion.” The whole series (3 hour-long videos) is available to rent for a week on Vimeo for $5. However, you can watch just the portion that addresses redlining and how racist mortgage practices in the mid-20th century led to today’s racial disparities in household wealth, for free, here. It’s about 30 minutes long.

Session IV: Redlining in Madison

A 3-minute local news video:

The big project looking at historical redlining maps that’s referenced there – Introduction & brief explanation:

And here’s Madison. Click around some! Notice the language used.

Then, spend some time looking at this recent paper:

Consider reading the whole thing; it’s pretty interesting. But here are some highlights.

  • Page 3: “We are seeking to understand if the discriminatory neighborhood evaluations made by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation have left a legacy of segregation and disparate outcomes in the neighborhoods of Madison. To what extent do modern mortgage lending patterns resemble the 1937 red-lined map of Madison?”
  • Read pages 6 & 7 about the historical racial dynamics of Madison.
  • Then there’s a whole chunk exploring the debate over whether the redlining maps were descriptive or prescriptive. It’s an interesting question; but  what difference does it ultimately make? There’s certainly a huge amount of self-fulfilling prophesy in these ratings. 
  • From page 20 on, look at the maps and graphs, & what they’re doing. 
  • Read the conclusion paragraph on page 33.  In many ways they end up with more questions. There are clearly some deeply persistent patterns; and there are hints that there are ongoing mechanisms that keep reinforcing those patterns. 


An important point: It’s not just that redlined areas have a lack of positive investment; it’s that they suffer from predatory and destructive forces, economic and otherwise. More on that ahead.

Where does all that place St. Dunstan’s as a church founded in the late 1950s on the west side of Madison?

Look at some midcentury Madison maps.


1966 :

While in 1966 there’s still a lot of open space where there are neighborhoods now, it’s clear that there was RAPID growth to the south and west during these years. (Middleton became a city in 1963, though parts of it are much older – even older than Madison proper.)

I have wondered about the extent to which St. Dunstan’s was a “white flight” church. It doesn’t sound like that was the case, exactly, based on what the paper has to say about the history of Madison’s African-American population. It’s more just that the area was growing, and a church was planted in an area where there was growth. HOWEVER: It may be meaningful that it was planted on the west side, not the south or southwest, which were also growing.

How have we NOTICED the racialized landscape of Madison/Dane County?  (Think about language of “crummy” neighborhoods, “bad” schools; places where we have a sense of not belonging or of being unsafe – how are we getting those messages?)

How have we NOT NOTICED it? …

What would it look like to inhabit this landscape differently? … 


We have decided to read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article “The Case for Reparations” and discuss that next week. The article can be read or listened to here. It’s a long read; give it time!

The Case for Reparations, Ta-Nehisi Coates

Some additional links…

“Your Home’s Value is Based on Racism,” Dorothy Brown

“Evanston approves housing grants as part of city’s local reparations program, believed to be first of its kind in the nation”




6205 University Ave., Madison WI

St. Dunstan's Episcopal Church