Wall Separating Whites from Blacks


This wall forms the western boundary of the Alfonso Wells Memorial Playground and extends in a north-south direction from just south of 8 mile Road toward Van Antwerp Park between Mendota and Birwood in northwest Detroit, not far from the intersection of Wyoming and 8 Mile.

The economic catastrophes of the Depression put most property owners at the risk of defaulting on their homes. Recognizing this severe problem, the Roosevelt Administration established federal agencies to both increase funds available for mortgages and use the power of the federal purse to ensure mortgages. The Home Owners Loan Corporation created a national system of urban maps indicating the credit worthiness of neighborhoods. Areas in which all the homes were well kept and attractive were coded in green. Neighborhoods in which many homes were inexpensive and run down were coded in red and, since the risk of default was high there, these areas did not qualify for government-backed mortgages. Neighborhoods which were thought to be at risk of invasion by Jews or blacks were automatically coded red regardless of the quality of the homes there since federal official believed that home values would plummet once undesirable minorities moved there.

This remote section of Detroit was not developed at the time of World War I. Apparently water and sewer lines had not been extended this far. Some Detroit blacks sought to escape their confinement to the Hastings Streets neighborhoods and moved into this area where they built small homes. With the coming of World War II, a developer sought to build homes for middle-class whites in this neighborhood. He began his development but was dismayed to find out that the Federal Housing Administration would not back up any mortgages since the Home Owners Loan Corporation coded the area in red. To overcome this challenge, he built a concrete wall, 6 feet in height and one-half mile long to indicate very clearly that whites and blacks would not be living in the same neighborhood. The Federal Housing Administration then approved loans for whites.

So far as I know, this is the only place in the country where a large wall was built to enforce an American Apartheid system, a wall that was built to comply with rules and regulations of the federal government.

Date of construction: 1940
Architectural style: A simple and straightforward concrete slab wall.


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