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Drawing Lessons From a Segregated History

Harvard urban planning professor Daniel D’Oca took his design grad students to Ferguson to see the impacts of racial zoning ordinances. They came back with some novel solutions.
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Daniel D'Oca

In Ruben Segovia’s graphic novel The Tracers, two African-American teens wander upon a vacant lot that once served as a backdrop for an anti-housing integration flier from 1916. It’s the same leaflet that The Atlantic’s national correspondent Ta-Nehisi Coates featured in his October 17, 2014 article “The Racist Housing Policies That Built Ferguson” about the riots that broke out that year in the St. Louis suburb.

One of Segovia’s characters recalls how back in 1916, African Americans were forbidden to “move to a place with 75 percent white dudes.” The other character responds by bringing up Harland Bartholomew, the “dean of city planners” who used racial zoning ordinances to segregate St. Louis. The young men proceed throughout the rest of the narrative to search for clues that might connect that racist history to the blighted lot that sits before them today.