The Legacy of Redlining and Segregation on Des Moines, Iowa

Other segregated housing studies have focused primarily on the largest metropolitan areas of the United States. This study of Des Moines, instead, addresses a smaller city to determine whether it has experienced similar segregated housing issues. This study also is designed to educate and engage residents about their communities and assist planners and policymakers in comprehending and remedying the adverse effects segregation has imprinted on the communities of Des Moines. Segregation and discrimination in housing have been a defining part of African American history in Des Moines since Iowa’s settlement. Iowa’s African Americans tell stories about how their ancestors faced constant oppression of their efforts to provide financial stability and quality housing for their families. The introduction of federal racial housing initiatives and discriminatory mortgage lending legislation changed the landscape of Des Moines in a way that remains intact today. The practice of redlining, established in 1936, provided an environment where systemic racism and segregation could endure. Even with civil rights efforts and fair housing laws enacted in the 1960s, discrimination in housing was not curbed. A visual comparison of the concentration of African Americans, from 1920 through 2010, reveals that the legacy of redlining and racial policies shapes where the people of Des Moines live today and the quality of life they experience.