Thy Neighbor Examining the connection between present day outcomes and government-sanctioned segregation in Durham County, NC


In the 1930s the Home Owners’ Loan Cooperation (HOLC) created what are now known as “redlining” maps for most major cities in the US. The use of these maps systematically eliminated opportunities for Black and Brown in cities such as Durham from accumulating generational wealth through homeownership. As a result, these areas still experience disparities in wealth, access to essential services, and well-funded schools. In this data physicalization, the historical disenfranchisement or privilege of each Durham neighborhoods will be paired with current outcomes (school performance data, property value, internet accessibility) in abstract collage to challenge how demographic data is often displayed in maps, gradients, and colors.

Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) Residential Security Map of Durham, NC. 1937. Courtesy of Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America

Project Methods & The Data

In order to create this physicalization, I first had to figure out which current census tracks corresponded to zones outlined on the HOLC map. I follow the streets on both maps to determine how they overlapped. In all 23 census tracks cover the same area as the HOLC map. This is primarily land surrounding the downtown area.

Understanding the Physicalization

Each square represents one census track in the downtown Durham area in its approximate location. There are four layers:

  • Base: The original HOLC map designation. On the map tracts of land were color coded to designate the desirability the area. Instead of colors, I represented this with a specific texture, either a textured card, sandpaper, glossy news print, gray for a formerly unpopulated area.
  • Left Corner: Median Home Sales (2019). HOLC maps have influenced the value of homes for generations. I designated home value with materials that varied in stability: a sewing pattern, tissue paper, magazine paper, and cardstock.
  • Bottom Right Corner: School Rating: