Monday, January 6, 2020

New Story Map: Mapping the Destruction of Tennessee's African American Neighborhoods

By Zach Keith

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is proud to present a new project using the GIS story mapping tool. Story maps allow for data, documents, and narrative to be presented along with geo-referenced maps to show the spatial evolution of a historical theme.

The "Mapping the Destruction of Tennessee's African American Neighborhoods" story map project details the often destructive impact of urban renewal and interstate projects of the mid-20th century on Tennessee's African American communities.

The mid-20th century building of the interstate highway system, public housing projects, and so-called "urban renewal" programs are commonly viewed as crucial elements in the modernization of America. The plans, however, produced unequal benefits for Tennessee's citizenry. For those whose neighborhoods were unaffected, statistically more likely to be white and wealthy, cities became more attractive and travel easier. For those who lost homes and businesses, more likely to be poor and African American, such projects entailed a severe disruption or even destruction of their communities and made it more difficult to accumulate property and wealth. The effects of these projects persist today.

Before and After: These two images show the razing of Capitol Hill from similar vantage points.

The project combines GIS software and primary sources. Overlaying historical maps onto present-day maps created an interactive exhibit whereby users can visualize the direct effects of these public works projects in cities across Tennessee, revealing how these neighborhoods looked before their erasure from the landscape.

Visit "Mapping the Destruction of Tennessee's African American Neighborhoods" to learn more.

The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

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