In Greenville County, past racist deeds abet gentrification, displacement
In an article appearing in The Post and Courier (Greenville), reporter Conor Hughes followed up on a mapping project carried out by Furman University researchers including Sam Hayes ’20, and Ken Kolb, chair and professor of the sociology department. They and other researchers at The Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities at Furman uncovered thousands of instances where racially restrictive language was included in housing deeds dating from 1900 to 1975.
The restrictive covenants prevented Black families from taking part in generational wealth and set the stage for the racial displacement the city and surrounding area is now undergoing, according to Kolb.
“What the covenant map does is identify areas of investment and disinvestment,” Kolb said. “By cordoning off specific areas and reserving them exclusively for white families, [the areas] became enclaves where those families could build generational wealth through their homeownership. They already had wealth. When it came time to decide which neighborhoods need nice sidewalks, street lamps, to pave the streets, fix the potholes, all that money flowed to neighborhoods that already had some wealth.”
Meantime, “the practices pushed Black residents into neighborhoods that as a rule enjoyed far less public investment and became hotbeds for unfavorable development, such as landfills, industrial sites and railroad tracks,” Hughes wrote. “They also had less access to jobs, healthcare and transportation. As a result, property values in those communities declined, creating a cycle of blight and poverty at a time when the average values of homes across the country consistently increased,” he added.
Hayes, a history and politics and international affairs graduate who just completed a postbaccalaureate fellowship with The Shi Institute, said, “Ultimately, what I hope comes out of this is starting a conversation about how we can move forward and actually improve the lives of the people who have been affected by this.”
Other researchers for “Mapping Housing Inequities, Greenville SC: Mapping Racially Restrictive Covenant Usage in Greenville County from 1900 – 1968” include sustainability science graduate Catherine Lippert ’20, a GIS analyst and project coordinator, and Mike Winiski, director of the Center for Applied Sustainability Research at Furman University’s Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities.