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Unvarnished

UnvarnishedHousing Discrimination in the Northern and Western United States

Explore the National Context

Local Spotlights

Six communities explore their own histories of segregation and housing discrimination.

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Why do you live where you live?

Do you pay a mortgage? 

Or do you pay rent?

Who are your neighbors?

Who aren’t your neighbors?

The places and spaces where we live do not happen by chance and aren't solely the result of individual choices.

Federal, state, and local governments have created and endorsed policies that have segregated our communities. These practices are part of a long history of racism and exclusion in America.

But segregation wasn’t just something written into law…

It was sustained by the actions of real estate agents, developers, mortgage lenders, homeowners, and millions of everyday Americans. 

Segregation wasn’t isolated to a few communities…

It was pervasive. You can find it almost everywhere.

Picking up momentum in the 1890s and continuing throughout the twentieth century, city planning, home financing, public housing, and real estate practices created a system of residential segregation.

It was a nationwide system and looked different from place to place. 

It was supported by all levels of government.

And it was often enforced through violence and the threat of violence.

White Americans had clear advantages. Homeownership and healthy communities gave many the chance to live out the American dream.

But this dream came at the expense of other groups who were denied those same privileges…denied the chance to build wealth, attend excellent schools, and access quality healthcare.

And the impact has been felt generation after generation.

For people negatively affected by this history, these practices are often well known. For others, it is a history that has been deliberately ignored, minimized, or dismissed.

But if you look closely, there are stories of exclusion and resistance in every community.

This online exhibition will take you inside some of these stories…inside the history of residential segregation in communities from Connecticut to California.

Why does it matter?

It matters because where we live affects our quality of life.

It affects our resources and opportunities we have. It impacts our lives, every day.