© 2022 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Local and Statewide News

New documentary exposes the impact of "Redlining" on Black neighborhoods in the Miami Valley

Redlining Image.jpg
Think TV
/
WPTD

Think TV's new documentary explains the history of systemic racism in mortgage lending and how it segregated neighborhoods in Dayton and Springfield.

WYSO’s Jason Reynolds spoke with producers Richard Wonderling and Selena Burks-Rentschler about "Redlining: Mapping Inequality in Dayton & Springfield."

REYNOLDS: What surprised you about the practice of redlining here in the Miami Valley?

WONDERLING: I think the biggest surprise coming out of this documentary for me was the story of Harry Kissel. Kissel was a real estate developer in Springfield. He was known nationally. He was probably Springfield's biggest cheerleader in terms of bringing jobs and people there. But at the same time, what we discovered is that he developed this sort of suburban utopia called Ridgewood, which is beautiful, but behind that beauty, you have racially restrictive deeds. He was one of the first to embrace this, and it spelled out very clearly that blacks could not live there. In fact, the only black people that were welcomed there would be servants to work during the daytime.

It didn't matter whether or not the individuals or families were middle class or poor or wealthy, they were just redlined flat out.

BURKS-RENTSCHLER: Just to piggyback off of what Richard was discussing, Kissel went on to be very integral in the formation of what is now known as the Federal Housing Administration. And they formed an organization called the Home Owners Loan Corporation, and this entity designed residential security maps, and that's where the term “Redlining” comes from. They would be graded from “A” being a high-quality neighborhood. Ridgewood, for example, that suburban in Springfield would be an “A1” graded neighborhood. And then any community that would have African-American inhabitants would be redlined automatically, by just a presence of their personhood. It didn't matter whether or not the individuals or families were middle class or poor or wealthy, they were just redlined flat out. And so that was surprising, to see this figure be such a player on the local stage, as well as the national stage.

And then the other thing that was really exciting to learn on this project was the discovery that the first African-American woman who became a realtor is from Dayton, Ohio. Her name is Lelia I. Francis, and she would travel to Louisville, Kentucky, or Memphis, Tennessee, to Black-owned banks and secure loans for her clients. And she was very integral in integrating the Dayton View neighborhood in the 60s, so she's a local icon and a civil rights legend.

REYNOLDS: What's a local voice that you spoke to or learned about that stuck with you, Richard?

WONDERLING: The interview and the story that I remember the most belonged to Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders. Her parents were civil rights activists, and in the 1960s, the early ’60s, they moved their family into an all-white neighborhood. Renita was seven years old at the time, and she gave us a firsthand account of what it was like being a seven-year-old to walk out of the house and suddenly have all these kids that were playing outside be called into their own homes by their moms because they didn't want her to play with her victim-blaming

Well, it's because the system was designed to starve these communities. They've been starved, whether it is investment, whether it's opportunities to develop and grow businesses. I don't want the victim-blaming to continue.

Now, that was bad enough, right? But she also experienced cross burnings in their yard and experienced people driving by and shooting guns into the air, trying to scare them out. But they would not be denied. I think that's the most powerful part of her story, is that when cars would drive by and shoot, her father would run outside and shoot up into the air just to send a message that they would not be intimidated and they were not going to leave, and they didn't leave. They ended up staying there and she finished, I believe, her high school education in that same house.

REYNOLDS: What do you hope people will take away from this documentary when they see it?

BURKS-RENTSCHLER: One of the things that kept coming up in meetings we've had over the course of the year is about perceptions and how the African-American community is perceived. The sentiment of “Oh, why can't an individual make their yard look nicer?” or “Why is this particular community so ridden with abandoned homes?” Well, it's because the system was designed to starve these communities. They've been starved, whether it is investment, whether it's opportunities to develop and grow businesses. I don't want the victim-blaming to continue.

So, my hope with this documentary is that the conversation will shift to improving these communities because when these communities suffer, the whole Dayton region suffers.

“Redlining: Mapping Inequality in Dayton and Springfield" premieres Thursday at 9PM.