Grand Rapids

The federal government redlined Grand Rapids on November 5, 1937. Consistent with the requirements of the government Underwriting Manual, the redlining specifically targeted residents of color, deeming their neighborhoods as “hazardous” to investment because they had residents of color or were even near residents of color. The original redlining map is below. We also have a map overlaying the original HOLC boundaries on 2019 segregation, which starkly show the continued effects of these racist practices.

Historical HOLC Redlining Map for Grand Rapids, Michigan (Nelson et al. 2020).

Grand Rapids Neighborhood Grading Justifications

The racist language and explanations below are quoted from the “Area Description Files” filled out by government appraisers. The language and justifications are coarse and offensive. Nonetheless, it is important to remember our past in all of its coarseness is offensiveness to fully understand the context that we confront today, especially when developing equitable housing policies.

Redlined neighborhoods

Government appraisers redlined the southern neighborhood because Black people and “foreign-born” Dutch people lived there, noting that the neighborhoods were otherwise desirable; central neighborhoods because the types of inhabitants included Black people and “Foreign-born” Italians.

Government appraisers redlined the neighborhoods now known as South Hills and Baxter because of the “types of inhabitants,” despite “Negroes in area [being] of better type.”

Yellow-graded neighborhoods

Government appraisers gave downtown neighborhoods a yellow grade because there were near redlined neighborhoods and outer neighborhoods in areas like Grandville, Wyoming Township, Paris Township, and North Park because future development was uncertain.

Blue-graded neighborhoods

Northern neighborhoods were graded as blue because although the schools were segregated and the residents were rich (both “favorable influences”), the distance to redlined neighborhoods in the city center was not far enough.

Government appraisers graded some Wyoming Township neighborhoods blue because their schools and population were well-segregated.

Green-graded neighborhoods

Government appraisers gave East Grand Rapids neighborhoods a green grade because they were sufficiently segregated from redlined neighborhoods and wealth White people lived there.

The Legacy of Redlining in Grand Rapids

We overlay the historical HOLC “redlining” map on present-day demographic data to show the persistence and continued relevance of these racist policies on present-day segregation. We mirror the racist HOLC color gradation to help visualize the continued segregation, as a lasting impact of redlining.

grand rapids seg
HOLC Grades overlaid on the people of color populations by 2019 Census Tract in Grand Rapids, Michigan (Manson et al. 2021 and Nelson et al. 2020). Percent people of color are calculated for U.S. Census tracts as percent not “White non-Hispanic,” using the 2019 American Community Survey.

Higher segregation is associated with lower incomes, lower educational attainment, more crime, worse health outcomes, and higher inequality. But segregation is not the only lasting impact of redlining in Michigan Cities, or in Grand Rapids. Researchers have shown that redlining also directly reduced many of these outcomes.


This research was conducted by Michigan State University Extension Specialist Craig Wesley Carpenter, Ph.D. (@DrCWCarpenter or carpe224@msu.edu).