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A History of Philadelphia: Redlining and the Founding Ideals of Democracy

Author: Alexander de Arana


William W. Bodine High School for International Affairs

Year: 2020

Seminar: The City in History

Grade Level: 9-12

Keywords: democracy, History, Philadelphia, social science

School Subject(s): History, Social Studies

Keeping my classroom’s curriculum as relevant as possible is of the utmost importance.  My Social Science curriculum covers topics such as lead and health as covered by the role of the media; gerrymandering and its interaction with legislative representation; school funding and the setting of budget priorities; mass incarceration and the role of trial courts; affirmative action and the role of appellate courts; outsourcing and globalization; and the Financial Crash of 2008 and its effects on personal finance.  Students are genuinely interested in these topics; therefore, the relevance of these lessons better equips them to understand how the three branches and levels of government work in action.  Students are quick to register to vote and become civically engaged, which is the goal of this course and this curriculum unit.

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Full Unit Text
Content Objectives


“One may describe the city, in its social aspect, as a special framework directed toward the creation of differentiated opportunities for a common life and a significant collective drama.  As indirect forms of association, with the aid of signs and symbols and specialized organizations, supplement direct face-to-face intercourse, the personalities of the citizens themselves become many-faceted: they reflect their specialized interests, their more intensively trained aptitudes, their finer discriminations and selections: the personality no longer presents a more or less unbroken traditional face to reality as a whole.  Here lies the possibility of personal disintegration; and here lies the need for reintegration through wider participation in a concrete and visible collective whole.  What men cannot imagine as a vague formless society, they can live through and experience as citizens in a city.  Their unified plans and buildings become a symbol of their social relatedness; and when the physical environment itself becomes disordered and incoherent, the social functions that it harbors become more difficult to express.” – Lewis Mumford in “What is a City?” from the Architectural Record[i]

Lewis Mumford, the American historian and architectural critic, emphasized the ideals of community life in urban space.  LeGates and Stout summarized Mumford’s view as explaining that he viewed urban life as a way of enlarging the potential for human interaction and building community.[ii]  Mumford was not the first theorist of cities to write about this, as will be explained below, primarily using William Penn and his vision for Philadelphia and Pennsylvania.

What occurs when society does not properly adhere to the values of community and human interaction that cities promote?  What kind of disordered and incoherent environment results?  Who falls most victim?  This curriculum unit addresses these questions by examining the development of Philadelphia from its origins to its present-day—through its periods of healthy community organization and unhealthy community impairment.


This four-week unit plan is designed for a high school Social Science class at William W. Bodine High School for International Affairs.  Bodine is a magnet high school in the School District of Philadelphia (SDP).  Located in Philadelphia’s Northern Liberties neighborhood, Bodine serves roughly 550 students.  Magnet high schools select students according to grades, attendance, disciplinary records, state test scores, and other criteria.  The SDP operates as a Title I school district; under this policy, all students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.  Over ninety-five percent of students at Bodine live below the poverty line.  Students attend daily class periods of fifty-three minutes each.  Bodine offers Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses to its upperclassmen.  This unit is taught to twelfth-grade Social Science (a civics course that focuses on government and economics) students but can be used in AP and IB courses as well as for ninth, tenth, and eleventh-grade students.

To prepare students to become engaged in their local, regional, and global communities, they must be aware of the history of these geographies.  These topics can be used within the classroom to promote active, civic participation, encouraging students to study the past in order to understand the present.  This practice will result in students’ ability to apply concepts and practices throughout history to understand the origin and workings of modern-day societies, cultures, and institutions.  Understanding the past is crucial to understanding how our government and politics work in today’s world, locally, nationally, and globally.

Keeping my classroom’s curriculum as relevant as possible is of the utmost importance.  My Social Science curriculum covers topics such as lead and health as covered by the role of the media; gerrymandering and its interaction with legislative representation; school funding and the setting of budget priorities; mass incarceration and the role of trial courts; affirmative action and the role of appellate courts; outsourcing and globalization; and the Financial Crash of 2008 and its effects on personal finance.  Students are genuinely interested in these topics; therefore, the relevance of these lessons better equips them to understand how the three branches and levels of government work in action.  Students are quick to register to vote and become civically engaged, which is the goal of this course and this curriculum unit.

Content Objectives

Philadelphia is one of the oldest and most significant cities in the United States.  Visitors from throughout the United States and around the world frequent Philadelphia’s Old City, where they tour national historical landmarks such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the President’s House, the National Constitution Center, and Benjamin Franklin’s grave.  While these landmarks tell the story of America’s history, many students at Bodine do not attach themselves to these historical sites. They are, however, deeply involved in their home neighborhoods.

Often called the “City of Neighborhoods,” Philadelphia encompasses a broad array of small communities—each with its history and culture—that students identify with more strongly.  Neighborhoods such as Northern Liberties, Kensington, and Strawberry Mansion each have unique histories that date to Philadelphia’s founding.  The students tend to connect most strongly to their neighborhood’s modern history and the issues that impact their communities today.  Among these issues is “redlining,” a racial discriminatory mortgage lending practice that the federal government-sponsored.

This curriculum unit’s aims are twofold: The first is to analyze the philosophy behind Philadelphia’s creation by William Penn and how his ideals contributed to its development from the seventeenth to the mid-twentieth centuries.  The philosophical principles behind a city’s creation and evolution often differed greatly from how the city operated in reality.  Students will use primary source documents to explore this tension throughout Philadelphia’s development during its early years: William Penn’s colony, the United States’ first capital city, the Industrial Revolution, and suburbanization in Greater Philadelphia.  This will set the background for part two.

The second aim is to analyze how redlining practices and their effects relate to the philosophy of Penn’s founding principles.  In this section, students will take a close look at the structure of today’s executive branch’s federal bureaucracy and the fifteen executive departments that exist within it.  They will most carefully examine how two executive departments, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), sponsored redlining practices by providing federal funds to local and state governments.  Students will study the history of the FHA and HUD to understand how redlining profoundly affected Philadelphia’s neighborhood development.  Lastly, students will explore redlining’s effects on today’s American landscape.  Students will scrutinize how redlining practices in Philadelphia compare to the city’s founding ideals of democracy.

The focus of this unit is on the policies federal, state, and local governments implemented, in the 1930s and after, to subsidize housing through the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  These policies contributed to the growth of postwar suburban neighborhoods while depriving urban communities of funding they needed for themselves.  More specifically, redlining practices explicitly discriminated against African American citizens making it especially difficult for them to obtain mortgages in suburban neighborhoods.  Cities across the United States continue to feel redlining’s effects today.

The topic of redlining has not generally found its way into the curriculum of American high schools, at least not to the extent of this unit plan.  Perhaps it is difficult to find such inclusion in the curriculum because redlining practices run counter to the American belief in equality for all.  Therefore, this unit will examine government policies in Philadelphia, from the time of its founding by William Penn—a man, a Quaker, devoted to egalitarian thinking—through the major historical stages of its development.  This curriculum unit will seek to understand the continuing struggle between ideals of equality and the opposition to them by examining the philosophy and purpose of a city.  This will put redlining and residential segregation into a historical perspective.  It will prepare students to understand the battle for America’s civic soul.  For students, understanding this struggle will be a preparation for active, engaged citizenship concerning issues that profoundly affect their lives and the lives of their families.

Content Background

Today, cities seem to be defined by their skylines or by the number of residents that inhabit them.  Underlying their physical form and population, this unit plan begins with an exploration of the purpose of cities—a philosophical concept that many have tried to grasp for millennia.  However, as this unit plan attempts to show, the philosophical purpose of a city often breaks down in how cities operate in practice.  Because of this, this unit plan must contextualize the views philosophers, urban planners, and others held by acknowledging the reality of their surroundings.

Philosophy of Cities

Plato and Aristotle wrote about what a city’s purpose ought to be during the fourth century BCE when both philosophers lived in Athens, Greece.  Conveniently located near the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, Athens’ temperate climate and proximity to Asia Minor, Western Europe, and North Africa allowed this city-state to prosper from maritime trading routes.  Athens was Greece’s most significant, wealthiest, and most democratic polis, or city-state.  These characteristics naturally contributed to how Plato and Aristotle viewed the purpose of a city.

Plato argued that cities are economic hubs.  He focused on the incentives that encouraged individuals to cooperate, to buy and trade goods and services that they could not produce individually.  In “Book IV” of The Republic, Plato wrote:

A State, I said, arises, as I conceive, out of the needs of mankind; no one is self-sufficing, but all of us have many wants.  Can any other origin of a State be imagined?

Then, as we have many wants, and many persons are needed to supply them, one takes a helper for one purpose and another for another; and when these partners and helpers are gathered together in one habitation the body of inhabitants is termed a State.

And they exchange with one another, and one gives, and another receives, under the idea that the exchange will be for their good.[iii]

Plato continued with this logic as he described the city-state growing in size and population as its economy expanded.  As he saw it, as a city’s population increases, their needs increase.  In other words, Plato argued that a city’s primary function is economical.  Individuals work with one another to fulfill their basic needs, such as food, water, clothing, and shelter.  Specialization occurs as individuals begin to exchange and sell goods and services that they learn to offer to consumers.

The Greek city-state’s infrastructure further reinforced Plato’s understanding of what a city is.  The acropolis, as the name implies, was located at the highest and central point of the city-state.  Individuals gathered there for spiritual purposes.  Beneath this was the agora or the city’s marketplace.  The city’s households and farming land surrounded the city’s agora and acropolis.   This layout perhaps reflected Athens’ wealth and economic strength.  After all, the orientation of the city’s physical plan and the focus on the city’s economy allowed Athens to become one of the most influential city-states in recorded world history.  According to Aristotle, the city’s purpose was not strictly economic.

Aristotle and Plato shared an understanding regarding the natural state of man—that the individual is, by nature, unable to be self-sufficient.  While Plato conceptualized the purpose of the city through an economic lens, Aristotle focused on the role the city plays in promoting citizenship.  In his Politics, Aristotle summarized his view:

Hence it is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man is by nature a political animal.  And he who by nature and not by mere accident is without a state, is neither a bad man or above humanity; he is like the ‘Tribeless, lawless, heartless one,’ whom Homer denounces—the natural outcast…[iv]

Aristotle’s premise that cities condition individuals to become active members of society suggests that the state bears the responsibility of molding its residents into citizens.   The duties of the state, according to Aristotle, aim to develop individuals as citizens that can participate in and form a community that best serves the public interest.[v]  Others have argued that cities have philosophies that prioritize spirituality or military or cultural strength.  The philosophy of a city impacts everyday life as well as how residents create and interact with a city’s layout.

Plato and Aristotle lived at a time when Athens was an influential maritime trading power due, in part, to its reliance on slavery.  The wealth and prosperity that Athens provided to some of its residents did not extend to all that lived in the city-state’s region.  Only a small minority of men that owned property were eligible to participate in government.  The norms of Athens excluded women and slaves from participating and benefiting from the principles Plato and Aristotle highlighted.  The tension between a city’s philosophy and its reality is not only seen in Athens but also in William Penn’s Philadelphia.

Philadelphia in Colonial America

For over 10,000 years before Europeans settled in North America, the indigenous Lenni Lenape people occupied the Delaware Valley, which lies in southeastern Pennsylvania, northern Delaware, and southern New Jersey.[vi]  Successful in avoiding war, Lenape Indians established trading and political alliances with Dutch, Swedish, and Finnish settlers.  The Treaty of Shackamaxon provided further evidence of the Lenape’s willingness to create strong relationships with its neighbors.[vii]  In 1682, British colonists and Lenape Indians agreed upon “perpetual friendship.”[viii]  Delaware Valley society before European settlement and during European colonization established principles of economic equality and political alliance that William Penn included in his plan for Pennsylvania and Philadelphia.

As the British Empire explored what they called the New World, the King of England issued charters to individuals to oversee the development of newly acquired colonial lands.   William Penn named the land chartered to him by King Charles II Pennsylvania, or Penn’s woods in Latin, for its expansive forests and woodlands.  The charter included the area south of the New York southern border and west of the Delaware River.[ix]  King Charles II provided Penn power to grant titles, initiate laws, levy taxes, coin money, regulate commerce, appoint provincial officials, administer justice, grant pardons, make war, erect manors, and control the land and waterways.[x]  So long as Penn maintained loyalty to the British monarch as a feudal state, he had enormous influence over the development of the area.  Although Penn’s powers were not unlimited, he could implement his vision for what would become the city of Philadelphia.

William Penn’s Philosophy

Influenced by Thomas More’s Utopia, and as a Quaker himself, Penn had an ambitious plan.  He sought to use his charter to create an egalitarian society in which residents lived in small, local communities that shared resources.  Called the Holy Experiment to free people from religious persecution, Penn sold some of the lands that King Charles II granted him to investors to make his vision real.[xi]  Although he initially targeted wealthy investors, Penn’s strategy also invited the immigration of individual investors from Germany, Holland, and France as he sold smaller pieces of land.[xii]  These buyers settled in what is now Philadelphia and its ring counties: Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware.

Using the philosophical works of John Locke, Penn aimed to create a society that valued the principles of cooperation, unalienable rights, and self-government.  Penn’s Charter of Privileges created small, local municipalities throughout the Pennsylvania colony that granted the power to create an assembly government.[xiii]  The purpose of Penn’s governmental structure was clear: to ensure self-government to build community.  Once just small localities, places such as Kingsessing, Kensington, and Tacony ultimately grew into more substantial towns in later years due to Penn’s vision.  The emphasis on local government was an effort to promote participation in one’s local community and politics—philosophies that relate to Plato’s and Aristotle’s interpretation of the Greek city-state.  Philadelphia’s architectural design further demonstrated Penn’s intention to promote civic engagement.

An Egalitarian City Plan

Appointed by Penn as surveyor-general, Thomas Holme developed a plan to organize the land where the Delaware River and Schuylkill River meet.  Inspired by the Great London Fire of 1666, Penn and Holme wanted to ensure public safety while also creating space for their initial investors.  As a Quaker, Penn also wanted to create a city that practiced egalitarian ideals, including religious tolerance.  Penn named his city Philadelphia, or the City of Brotherly Love, to reflect these principles.  Together with Holme, Penn created a grid layout that stretched from the Delaware River on the east to the Schuylkill River on the west.[xiv]   This area later became known as Center City (see Figure 1), at the intersection of Broad Street and Market Street (then High Street), Philadelphia’s two main streets.

Figure 1: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania wrote, “Thomas Holme’s A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia in the Province of Pennsylvania.  In 1682, William Penn appointed Holme surveyor-general of Pennsylvania and charged him with the task of laying out the “greene country towne” that Penn envisioned along the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers; all told, the rectangular grid of land comprised twelve thousand acres.  Holme imposed an orderly grid plan on the site, with streets organized around a large square in the center of the town and four smaller squares, one in each quadrant.  The grid also included two main streets, Broad and High (present-day Market), which were kept wide in hopes of preventing the kind of fire that destroyed London in 1666.  Completed in 1683, A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia was used for both reference and promotional purposes to show the unique layout of William Penn’s emerging city.”[xv]

Source: “A Map of the Original City of Philadelphia,” Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, April 25, 2020,

The eastern side of the city initially saw the most development, as it was closest to the water trading routes of the Delaware River.  As the city’s economy strengthened, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, and German peoples immigrated to the Greater Philadelphia region.  Philadelphia’s proximity to the water encouraged economic activity and provided further evidence for Plato’s argument that cities are centers for commercial activity.

The Delaware waterfront saw the building of churches, taverns, and houses as this area—now known as Old City—became the center of civic life in Penn’s colony, a living representation of Aristotle’s philosophy of the city.  City planners located sites for the Quaker meetinghouse on Second and High Streets and the Pennsylvania State House (later known as Independence Hall) on Fifth and High Streets.  The Delaware River witnessed the building of ports and commercial and residential buildings.  At the same time, Penn and Holme left the western side of Philadelphia more open for public squares with green spaces to encourage public gatherings.

Similarly to Plato and Aristotle, Penn and Holme’s philosophy for their city did not extend to all of Philadelphia’s residents.  For example, wealthy investors could afford to purchase larger pieces of land compared to groups that held smaller pieces of land.  Moreover, the institution of slavery was present on the shores of the North American colonies under the British Empire, while William Penn devised his Holy Experiment.  The struggle for true egalitarianism continued in Philadelphia’s development during the American Revolutionary War.

Building a New Nation: Philadelphia during the American Revolutionary War

Philadelphia provided the colonies with an infrastructure that significantly contributed to American revolutionist sentiment.  The city became the headquarters for the newly formed United States government after the American Revolutionary War.  It served as the capital between 1790 and 1800, in part, because of its size and central position between the northern and southern landscape.[xvi]  Philadelphia became home to political deliberations that shaped the country’s founding government.  Much of this was a result of how Penn envisioned city life in Philadelphia as an environment that promoted democratic ideals and an engaged citizenry.

Philadelphia’s Intellectual Landscape

During the colonial period, the planning of Philadelphia’s layout led to the exchange of philosophical and intellectual thoughts among city residents.  Governments and religious institutions no longer held sole control of knowledge.  Citizens could now read the newspaper, discuss the day’s events, and demand a new social contract with their government in the taverns and coffeehouses throughout Philadelphia.  As Penn and Holme wanted an egalitarian society in which citizens engaged in public discourse, they built into the city’s design space for coffeehouses and taverns.  Merchants and travelers often stayed at taverns, then known as public houses or inns.[xvii]  These taverns often catered towards a specific clientele.  For example, some taverns hosted the political elite, while merchants frequented others.

Inventions such as Benjamin Franklin’s printing press allowed for the circulation of newspapers to explode in the colonies.[xviii]  Coffeehouses catered much more to commercial activity, such as the Philadelphia Stock Exchange’s connection to the London Coffee House.  Coffeehouses relied on newspaper circulation due to their focus on the economy.  Traders wanted to keep up with the latest news to make informed business decisions.[xix]  Conversations in the new nation’s capital city did not only focus on economics, and the city’s infrastructure significantly contributed to the founding of the new United States government.

In addition to the political and economic discussions that coffeehouses and taverns facilitated, these businesses also contributed to the development of many prominent institutions in Philadelphia.  Benjamin Franklin and John Bartram founded The American Philosophical Society in 1743 to promote human knowledge.  Further promoting literacy and an educated citizenry, Franklin established the Library Company of Philadelphia in 1731.[xx]  Philadelphia symbolized the Age of Enlightenment, when rationality and intellectual inquiry reigned supreme.  Penn and Holme’s vision of Philadelphia seemed to manifest the civic and economic philosophies of Aristotle and Plato, respectively.  Their city layout contributed to this atmosphere, which ultimately led to the emergence of American revolutionary sentiment.

Enlightenment Ideals and Racial Realities

The Age of Enlightenment ushered in a group of thinkers that questioned the role governments had in society.  Discoveries in science, innovations in technology, and social unrest all contributed to how philosophers viewed the nature of the social contract between individuals and their government.  In Philadelphia, a high point of political discourse and revolutionary sentiment came when Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was published and circulated in 1776.  Paine called for a democratic government and universal human rights.[xxi]  Paine’s arguments, which drew their roots from philosophers such as John Locke, would later be carried on by the founders of the American government in Philadelphia.  At the intersection of 5th and Market Streets, in the Pennsylvania State House, now called Independence Hall, the American founders convened the First and Second Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, drafted the Articles of Confederation in 1781, and ratified the US Constitution in 1789.

Furthering their debates on the new government, the leading thinkers in the new United States government wrestled with the issue of slavery.  According to Diemer, “By the end of the American Revolution, Philadelphia contained only four hundred slaves, while its free black population had grown to over one thousand.”[xxii]  The city faced a paradox: As William Penn designed the new nation’s capital with ideals of egalitarianism in mind, the US Constitution did not afford equal rights for thousands of Philadelphia residents.

Disputes about slavery existed in Philadelphia for centuries.  Quakers from Germantown first formally denounced the institution of slavery by staging the 1688 Germantown Protest, which “challenged the Society of Friends to treat African-descended people as brethren and not bondsmen.”[xxiii]  Although a planter himself, Thomas Jefferson included the phrase “the un-Christian practice of slavery” in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence, written in Philadelphia.  After a series of debates in the Second Continental Congress, the final draft did not include the phrase.[xxiv]  As founders argued over what to include in the nation’s constitution, Richard Allen and Absalom Jones founded the Free African Society in 1787.  Tied to the St. George’s Methodist Church, the Free African Society aimed to improve literacy across the city’s black population.[xxv]  Members of Philadelphia’s black community advocated for the extension of the ideas debated at Independence Hall and throughout Philadelphia.  This public discourse was not only a product of European Enlightenment thinkers but also a result of the city layout that Penn and Holme designed.  The conundrum of Philadelphia’s vision versus its application to everyday life became more challenging to maintain as the metropolis experienced the Industrial Revolution and a massive increase in population.

Urbanism and the Challenge of Civic Cohesion: Philadelphia during the Industrial Revolution

Philadelphia became witness to a period of tremendous industrial growth throughout the nineteenth century.  Advances in technology seemed to support Plato’s philosophy of a city.  Factories built throughout Philadelphia and its surrounding towns such as Manayunk and Norristown, created job opportunities for many.  The prospect of employment attracted thousands of working-class families to the Philadelphia region—from within the United States and from overseas as well.  As the nineteenth century saw industrial and economic growth in Philadelphia, stark racial and socioeconomic differences especially threatened Penn and Holme’s vision for an egalitarian society.

Factories and Rowhomes

The nineteenth century saw the rise of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.  While, until 1854, Philadelphia still lay within the modern-day boundaries of Center City, its surrounding towns such as Germantown, Tacony, Manayunk, and Norristown quickly developed as industrial centers for the textile industry.  These local communities saw an influx of residents in search of work.  Despite the strengthening in their economy, these places of industrialization were not without their problems.

Employment provided an opportunity for many immigrant groups from Europe.  Residents often lived near the factory where they worked, usually in cramped and polluted environments.  Problems arose from this new form of urbanism:

In this era of the “walking city,” before streetcars or subways, industrial workers lived literally in the shadow of the factories.  For most, home meant a two-story row house (or a rented room in a row house) on a street lined corner-to-corner with identical homes [see Figure 2].  The sounds and smells of the factories permeated these neighborhoods.  Smokestacks sent pollution into the air, and smoke-belching locomotives shared the streets with horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians.  The rapid growth of industry could easily overwhelm the capacity of the neighborhoods.  By 1859, for example, the Manayunk Star and Roxborough Gazette described Manayunk as densely packed with overcrowded and poorly kept houses. [xxvi]

Immigrants often shaped neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia’s surrounding towns.  For example, German immigrants settled in Germantown, and English immigrants settled in Kensington.  In many cases, they viewed African American workers as their competition.  Tensions between immigrant and racial minority groups often led to violent altercations, forcing the city and its surrounding towns to consolidate.

Figure 2: The Art Institute of Chicago writes, “As Philadelphia rapidly expanded after the Civil War, the row house served as the standard form used by builders to fill in new neighborhoods. In 1891, editors of the nationally-circulated Harper’s Weekly understood that the ‘typical Philadelphia home’ was a row house, and included illustrations of an ornamented brick row house with front porch alongside a more humble version, implying for the magazine’s audience that the row house could house both working- and middle-class residents. In 1893, city promoters embraced this characterization when, at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, they constructed a simple brick row house described as a ‘model Philadelphia house.’ The cost of such a building was approximately $2500.’[xxvii]

Source: Inland Architect, vol. 22, no. 3, Courtesy Ryerson and Burnham Libraries, The Art Institute of Chicago,

The Consolidation of 1854

In 1854, city government officials consolidated Philadelphia and its surrounding industrial towns under one jurisdiction.  Under this new policy, the original borders from Penn and Holme’s grid layout of Philadelphia expanded from a two-square-mile area to a city that encompassed 130 square miles.[xxviii]  The racial unrest that occurred throughout the early nineteenth century showcased the city’s inability to police its boundaries, further encouraging consolidation efforts.  It made it easier for the police department to police offenders that could quickly flee the city’s jurisdiction before the Consolidation Act of 1854.  Incorporating the surrounding towns under the city government’s purview also added to the tax base due to the vast populations of the surrounding towns.[xxix]  Just based on numbers alone, Spring Garden, Northern Liberties, and Kensington were all ranked in the top-twenty of the largest urban centers in the 1850 US Census.  Although the city’s boundaries expanded to create a single Philadelphia government, the sheer volume of people that would now live within the city limits created a heterogeneous Philadelphia, therefore providing Philadelphia with its nickname as the “City of Neighborhoods.”

Differences in political affiliations and socioeconomic status became an obstacle for the city government.  Towns outside of Philadelphia’s original borders tended to be less influential and more Democratic.  In contrast, the population within the original boundaries of Philadelphia were more affluent and favored the Republican Party.[xxx]  Although the rise of industry in Philadelphia segregated immigrant and African American communities from each other and the city’s wealthy commercial district, the city’s layout still created clusters of community that engaged in politics and economics.

The black community often sought jobs in factories, but mostly worked in other economic sectors due to racial marginalization.  For example, Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward was the city’s historically black neighborhood.  Occupying the area just south of the city’s commercial district, the Seventh Ward was enclosed by Spruce Street to the north, South Street to the south, the Schuylkill River to the west, and Seventh Street to the east.  According to W.E.B. Du Bois’ study of the Seventh Ward, forty-five percent of the neighborhood’s total male population over the age of twenty-one worked as laborers in the common class.  Thirty-four percent of the same group worked as servants.[xxxi]  Citing issues of competition and prejudice, Du Bois went on to write, “Because of these difficulties which virtually increase competition in [the African American male’s] case, he is forced to take lower wages for the same work than white workmen.”[xxxii]  Nonetheless, the Seventh Ward’s residents still engaged in political discourse, albeit as a separate community from the city’s core.

Du Bois described the Seventh Ward as “a city within a city” despite the issues of crime, prejudice, and access to employment he noted.[xxxiii]  He highlighted the distinctions between the ward’s impoverished section and its more affluent neighborhoods.  Du Bois also wrote about the ward’s politically engaged community.  He noted, “There is an abundance of political clubs, and nearly all the houses are practically lodging houses, with a miscellaneous and shifting population.”[xxxiv]  Du Bois’ description of the Seventh Ward illustrated the paradoxical relationship between Philadelphia’s ideals of egalitarianism and segregationist practices.  Because many workers lived close to the factory, neighborhood orientations further exacerbated socioeconomic and racial divisions, so there was not much incentive to travel across the city or outside of one’s immediate community.

Efforts to create a single community and encourage Philadelphia residents to participate in public life was on the city’s agenda at the time of the Consolidation Act of 1854.  The city’s new charter understood its duties to include preserving open spaces, standardizing street names, professionalizing the fire department, and constructing a new City Hall at the intersection of Broad and Market Streets.  While Philadelphia remained segregated, each of these goals resembled the preservation of an egalitarian society that Penn envisioned.  The city built a robust network of transportation to connect all these towns, but this project ultimately further segregated Philadelphia.

Public Transportation

Initially pulled by horses, the use of electric streetcars expanded public transportation access for Philadelphia residents.  The rail industry already exploded in industrial towns like Norristown and Manayunk in the first half of the nineteenth century.  However, the new technology also connected the variety of landscapes within Philadelphia’s new city limits.  By 1876, the country’s centennial anniversary, Philadelphia, claimed the most extensive railway system in the country.  Despite efforts to connect Philadelphia more, the transportation system was inherently inegalitarian.  Streetcars remained racially segregated until civil rights activists such as Octavius Catto successfully protested these rules.[xxxv]  The country later celebrated Philadelphia’s newly adopted public transportation system at the Centennial in Fairmount Park.

The city’s rail and trolley systems continued to sprawl beyond city limits.  The streetcar system created the first waves of suburbanization.  Now known as the Main Line, wealthy suburbs such as West Chester, Upper Darby, Ardmore, Media, and Sharon Hill connected themselves to the city, expanding the metropolis of Philadelphia in the ladder half of the nineteenth century.  Although the expansion of the city’s railway systems contributed to the city’s economic growth for its railroad companies, it also allowed wealthy families to separate their work lives and home lives.

The city focused on building more railroad systems for commuters to accommodate the city’s sprawl.  New construction plans for two subway systems began when the city government “approved an ordinance that allowed for both subway and elevated lines.”[xxxvi]  At the turn of the century, 69th Street in West Philadelphia connected to the city’s center at 15th Street.  Ultimately, this line—now known as the Market-Frankford Line (MFL), or the El—reached Frankford.  Rail systems also stretched across the Delaware River to Camden, New Jersey.  Affluent families that previously lived and worked within Philadelphia’s borders now had access to live in the suburbs.  The waves of suburbanization that followed the expansion of the city’s railroad systems divided Philadelphia between the city proper and its surrounding ring counties (Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware) and towns (Wilmington, Camden).  Years after the Great Migration, the election of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) during the Great Depression further exacerbated racial and socioeconomic divides in Philadelphia.  Once again, city planning policies contradicted the ideals of egalitarianism.

The New Deal Era: Philadelphia in the Twentieth Century

In 1916, large groups of African Americans moved to the North and Midwest to escape racial terrorism and find employment.  Cities such as New York City, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia offered factory jobs to many black migrants, though many of these jobs vanished years later.  Under President Hoover, the Great Depression arrived in 1928 and created vast swaths of unemployment throughout the United States.  Joblessness rates hit Philadelphia’s African American community particularly hard.  Unemployment rates among the city’s black residents were up to 50% as many companies adopted the “last hired, first fired” policies of layoffs.  Social unrest and the participation of workers in labor unions—political organizations that were a consequence of the Industrial Revolution—put pressure on politicians to strengthen the economy for the working-class.  In a city in which the Republican Party had dominated, working-class families switched their political affiliation to the Democratic Party by voting for FDR and his New Deal agenda.

The Roosevelt Administration aimed to use fiscal policy programs to lift the American workforce out of the Great Depression.  President Roosevelt’s “New Deal for the American people” expanded public works, regulated commercial banks, granted workers the right to unionize, and increased federal subsidies for social welfare programs.  Coupled with the outbreak of World War II, individuals seeking work found employment as the federal military supply of contracts increased with Philadelphia’s textile, rail, shipping, and transit industries.  As the prospect of finding work improved, large numbers of African Americans moved to industrial cities in the Northeast and Midwest.  Despite this successful boost to the economy, not all Americans were eligible to participate in social welfare programs subsidized by the federal government.

The Great Migration

Philadelphia’s popular railroad industry offered employment to blacks and immigrants at companies like the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads, Baldwin Locomotive, Midvale Steel, Cramps Shipyard, and the Philadelphia Transit Company.  During this time, “Philadelphia’s black population more than doubled, rising from 63,000 in 1900 to 134,000 in 1920.”[xxxvii]  The city’s demographic change led to further racial and socioeconomic discord.

Racial segregation laws applied to public accommodations, public spaces, and labor unions.  Racial riots in 1918 showed the amount of unrest in Philadelphia.  In response to racial clashes, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began to advocate for equal rights on behalf of racial minorities.  Its membership increased as the city’s black population grew to over 220,000 before the Great Depression during the 1920s.[xxxviii]

The United States’ entry into World War II provided industrial cities such as Philadelphia with government contracts.  The increase in employment opportunities saw a second wave of the Great Migration.  Philadelphia’s black population increased from 250,000 residents in 1940 to 375,000 in 1950 and 655,000 residents in 1970. [xxxix]  As the city’s black population increased, racial relationships did not necessarily improve.  Neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia remained segregated, as they were during the Industrial Revolution.  Civil rights leaders such as Cecil B. Moore advocated for anti-discriminatory practices for the city’s black community as the New Deal programs excluded African American citizens.

Cooperative Federalism and the Federal Bureaucracy

As part of FDR’s New Deal, the federal government created the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) in 1934.  The FHA subsidized builders to produce houses and lending institutions to expand access to mortgages throughout the United States.  Most residents in the United States rented property when FDR created the New Deal.  At the time of the FHA’s creation, millions of workers lost their jobs, and mortgage loan terms for people who wanted to buy were unfavorable.[xl]  Initially, as a standalone department, the FHA ultimately became part of today’s Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965.  Like all federal programs, the FHA relied on federal tax revenue to fund its projects.  It also required the cooperation of state and local levels of government to implement its plans.

Before FDR’s New Deal, governments practiced dual federalism, which meant that governments at the local, state, and federal levels mainly worked independently from one another.  The Roosevelt Administration used cooperative federalism for their implementation.  Cooperative federalism operated using fiscal policy to stimulate the nation’s struggling economy.  To fund and expand social welfare programs, the federal government diverted money to local and state agencies to direct projects that the federal government wanted complete.  For example, Philadelphia gained access to $200 million with the passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act.[xli]  Under the new law, local organizations such as the Southeastern Pennsylvania Regional Planning Commission, the Pennsylvania Department of Highways, the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, and the Philadelphia Department of Streets directed and organized the construction of the Interstate Highway System with federal dollars.  The Vine Street Expressway and the Schuylkill Expressway used similar policies.[xlii]


By rolling out federal programs, the City of Philadelphia gained access to federal pools of money so long as the local and state governments adhere to the rules and regulations put in place by the federal government.  In practice, the New Deal’s cooperative federalism methods exacerbated racial and socioeconomic strife and segregation.  Ironically, President Roosevelt, whose New Deal programs had been supported by many working-class and African American voters, contributed to the already growing inequality between Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs.  By following the terms issued by the Federal Housing Administration, real estate companies and lending agencies discriminated against some of the city’s most vulnerable populations using redlining practices:

The term “redlining” arose in the 1960s, although the practice of redlining dates to the 1930s and two federal housing agencies—the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC) and the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  HOLC employed local real estate and finance experts to conduct systematic neighborhood appraisals in the 1930s and used the survey data to create Residential Security maps representing the perceived neighborhood risk.  The riskiest neighborhoods received a grade “D” and were colored red.  The nature of Philadelphia as an industrial city, and the proximity between factories and residential areas, led to many neighborhoods receiving the lowest grade as high-risk areas.[xliii]

The FHA based its lending practices on these racially coded maps (see Figures 3 and 4).  As described by Richard Rothstein, the FHA’s rationale claimed “that a purchase by an African American in a white neighborhood, or the presence of African Americans in or near such a neighborhood, would cause the value of the white-owned properties to decline.  This, in turn, would increase the FHA’s losses, because white property owners in the neighborhood would be more likely to default on their mortgages.”[xliv]  Fiscal policy sponsored by the federal government and implemented by the state and local administrations effectively trapped African Americans in the working-class neighborhoods that they moved to during the Great Migration.

Figure 3: The image to the left is the map legend of the last remaining copy of a Philadelphia redlining map.  The Philadelphia City Archives houses the map.

Figure 4: The image below shows the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, which continues to be impacted by the redlining policies that took place in 1943.

Source: Property Service Inc., Philadelphia Racial Map, photographed by Alexander de Arana (June 1943; Philadelphia: Property Service Inc.), Map.[xlv]

Simply put, governments at all levels did not afford the same opportunity for African American homebuyers to apply for a subsidized FHA mortgage, effectively creating multiple cities within the Philadelphia metropolis.

Racial and class-based segregation was not new to Philadelphia.  Previously discussed eras such as William Penn’s colony, the United States’ first capital city, and the Industrial Revolution all contributed to segregation in Philadelphia.  Divisions have existed throughout the city in history.  2,500 years ago, Plato referenced these divisions while writing The Republic.  He celebrated the Republic’s ideal city, because, in part, it minimized socioeconomic divisions to promote equality.  He wrote:

You ought to speak of other States in the plural number; not one of them is a city, but many cities, as they say in the game.  For indeed any city, however small, is in fact divided into two, one the city of the poor, the other of the rich; these are at war with one another; and in either there are many smaller divisions, and you would altogether beside the mark if you treated them all as a single State.  But if you deal with them as many, and give the wealth or power or persons of the one to the others, you will always have a great many friends and not many enemies.  And your State, while the wise order which has been prescribed continues to prevail in her, will be the greatest of States, I do not mean to say in reputation or appearance, but in deed and truth, though she number not more than a thousand defenders.  A single State which is her equal you will hardly find, either among Hellenes or barbarians, though many that appear to be as great and my times greater.[xlvi]

Plato saw that segregation harmed the democratic and economic archetypes of a city.

The FHA sponsored racial discrimination throughout the American landscape.  This policy resulted in a significant increase in stratification between inner-city neighborhoods and the suburbs.  Additionally, racial and socioeconomic segregation exponentially increased with the federal subsidy of the Interstate Highway System that contributed to white flight.

Philadelphia’s public transportation system initially saw the city’s social classes become fragmented when wealthy families left the city for its adjacent towns via rail.  The construction of the Interstate Highway System increased suburbanization and disrupted Penn and Holme’s founding principles of the city.  For instance, with more families gaining access to automobiles, the City Planning Commission issued a design for the Delaware Expressway.  The Delaware Expressway connected the city’s downtown area, industrial centers in the southern part of the city, and the city’s western suburbs.  The project was, in part, meant to encourage suburban middle-class families to live in the suburbs but work and shop in the city to revitalize the city’s urban core—a product of the division between the affluent suburbs and urban working-class neighborhoods.

Philadelphia always faced levels of inequality within its borders, and practices of redlining and the construction of the Interstate Highway System further betrayed its founding principles.  Growth to the suburbs increased quickly after the development of the Delaware Expressway and other highway roads such as the Schuylkill Expressway and the Vine Street Expressway.  The stark racial division between Philadelphia and its surrounding suburbs can still be traced back to the New Deal Era when comparing redlined maps and US Census data today (see Figure 5).

Figure 5: The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service states that “This racial dot map is an American snapshot; it provides an accessible visualization of geographic distribution, population density, and racial diversity of the American people in every neighborhood in the entire country.  The map displays 308,745,538 dots, one for each person residing in the United States at the location they were counted during the 2010 Census.  Each dot is color-coded by the individual’s race and ethnicity.  The map is presented in both black and white and full color versions.  In the color version, each dot is color-coded by race.”[xlvii]

This map shows a close-up image of Philadelphia.  The Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, shown in Figure 5, is located where the white strip cuts across the green dots in Philadelphia’s northwestern region.  For reference, the same railroad that stretches across the southwest and the northeast corners borders the Glenwood Cemetery in Figure 5.

Source: Image Copyright, 2013, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Dustin A. Cable, creator),

Redlining’s Effects

The inability for so many African Americans to gain access to federally subsidized mortgages devastated communities for decades to come.  As suburbia became populated, neighborhoods outside of Philadelphia became less dependent on the city.  This phenomenon took place across urban America.  Robert Fishman perhaps best captures this in describing the rise of the technoburb.  Fishman wrote:

By the standards of a preindustrial city where people often lived and worked under the same roof, or even of the turn of the century industrial zones where factories were an integral part of working class neighborhoods, the linkage between work and residence in the technoburb is hardly close.  A recent study of New Jersey shows that most workers along the state’s growth corridors now live in the same county in which they work.  But this relative dispersion must be contrasted to the former pattern of commuting into urban cores like Newark or New York.  In most cases traveling time to work diminishes, even when the distances traveled are still substantial; as the 1980 census indicates, the average journey to work appears to be diminishing both in distance and, more importantly, in time.[xlviii]

In other words, traditionally, suburban residents commuted to the city to work; however, recently, suburban areas have become self-sufficient with increased specialization in newer fields.  Herein lies the issue with redlining: Once benefiting from egalitarian ideals Penn envisioned for economic and political life in Philadelphia, suburbia became further divided from urban life.  Federally subsidized redlining practices worsened this division and weakened the political and economic importance of cities themselves.  Plagued by redlining practices, today’s current structure of local and state government in Pennsylvania has led to significant differences in school conditions, funding for school districts, incarceration rates, opportunities for employment, and modern lending practices.

School Conditions

Within the last few years, media coverage has focused heavily on school building conditions in Philadelphia.  Reports of dangerous levels of leaded water, lead paint, asbestos, and asthma triggers worried Philadelphia residents.  After testing thousands of water stations throughout the city, the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) discovered toxicity concentrations that were much higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines of five micrograms per deciliter.[xlix]  For instance, Sayre High School, a neighborhood high school in West Philadelphia, measured 5180 parts per billion (ppb) of the toxic metal in its water.  The EPA’s designated action level is 15 ppb.[l]

Philadelphia’s most heavily circulated newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, conducted an extensive study into Philadelphia’s schools.  The study searched for lead particles in water and paint, asthma triggers, and asbestos in school buildings.  Since the report surfaced, the SDP targeted dozens of schools to remediate them.  Perhaps the most alarming piece of news broke when the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers announced doctors diagnosed a 30-year veteran teacher with mesothelioma.  The Inquirer documented several reports of asbestos in the teacher’s school building.[li]

Much of the SDP’s abatement projects come down to cost, which relates to how Pennsylvania funds its school districts.  Decaying school conditions are note seen in suburban school districts to the extent that they are in Philadelphia.  Racial and socioeconomic divisions correlate with the funding of school facilities.   Superintendent Hite of the SDP and eleven other superintendents throughout Pennsylvania called for the state legislature to create a more equitable school funding formula, in part, to combat issues arising from decaying facilities.[lii]  Governor Tom Wolf has supported siphoning money off for urban school districts to more adequately fund these communities.  While the SDP welcomed Governor Wolf’s actions, the struggle for equitable school funding in Pennsylvania continues.

School Funding

According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Pennsylvania ranked as the forty-sixth worst state in the country for the state’s share for public school funding.  The report highlighted that Pennsylvania contributes, on average, thirty-eight percent of a school district’s budget.  This funding formula leaves school districts heavily reliant on property taxes to generate the rest of their revenue.  Pennsylvania’s school funding formula creates an enormous difference in school budgets between affluent school districts and underfunded ones.  For example, Shenandoah Valley School District, a rural school district in Schuylkill County, spends $8,660 per pupil while Lower Merion School District, located on the Main Line outside of Philadelphia, spends $22,963 per pupil.[liii]  The differences in funding are not just apparent between suburban and rural school districts.  According to the same report, the SDP sends $13,625 per pupil.

The Commonwealth’s funding practices are not atypical in the United States.  Funding for education is decentralized and primarily driven by local property tax revenue.  Redlining practices have further exacerbated the economics of schooling as some local communities cannot afford even to repair their buildings from reports of leaded water and paint.  The debate over Pennsylvania’s school funding formula has made its way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where advocates are fighting for a new, more equitable funding formula.  Supporters of the new formula favor it because it takes into account the number of English language learners, students with special education accommodations, students living in poverty, and other factors.[liv]  Aside from issues of building conditions and school funding, redlining practices have also impacted crime and policing in urban and suburban communities.

Mass Incarceration

“Tough on crime” policies grew in popularity beginning in the 1960s as white flight increased significantly.  Issues of urbanization, a Baby Boomer generation in their teenage and young adult years, and the country’s heroin drug epidemic affected the nation’s crime rates.  The media depicted inner-city neighborhoods as being violent environments plagued with rising crime rates.[lv]

The “law and order” and “tough on crime” campaigns led to the racist and violent War on Drugs in the 1980s, which disproportionately affected racial minority groups.[lvi]  These political efforts saw the extreme spike in funding for prisons and prosecutor offices across the country.  The result was an explosion of the United States’ incarcerated population that disproportionately affects racial minority and economically disadvantaged groups.  Today, approximately 2.3 million people are behind bars, while nearly 4.5 million individuals are under some form of supervision.  Although the United States has about 5% of the world’s population, it holds for approximately 25% of the world’s incarcerated population.   Punitive legislation, harsh policing, and mass incarceration were, in part, a result of redlining and the discriminatory nature of the New Deal Era.  Rather than offering support for expanding social welfare programs, politicians cut these programs while becoming increasingly punitive.

In recent years, the country has seen dozens of reform-minded prosecutors elected as district attorneys of their cities and counties.  For example, Larry Krasner, a former public defender that sued the Philadelphia Police Department seventy-five times, defeated Republican challenger Beth Grossman in 2017.[lvii]  Reform-minded district attorneys such as Larry Krasner advocate for diversionary programs, shorter sentences, and harm reduction strategies.  District attorneys alone cannot remedy the problems that arose from the federally sponsored redlining practices, as many of these communities face high levels of unemployment resulting from the collapse of American manufacturing jobs.

Rust Belt

The collapse of industry in Philadelphia during the 1960s and 1970s devastated working-class neighborhoods.  As companies began to manufacture their products overseas due to lower production costs, residents in cities across the United States lost their job.  The automation of factory jobs further exacerbated the issue.  Nicknamed the Rust Belt, economic pressures to outsource and automate production abandoned factories and warehouses throughout the Northeast corridor and Great Lakes region.

As suburbanization continued, cities such as Philadelphia could not collect taxes on wages or property from those that now lived in suburban neighborhoods.  Redlined neighborhoods trapped many working-class families in areas with high levels of unemployment, leading to families falling into poverty.  As a result, Philadelphia’s tax base decreased, and funding sources dwindled.

As families in suburbia did not typically rely on manufacturing jobs, city governments have discussed ways of incentivizing affluent suburban communities to participate in the city’s economy.[lviii]  Projects to improve infrastructure in cities are just one method city mayors have attempted to remedy this issue.  Public works projects, as well as the use of tax abatements, have also encouraged people to move back into the city.

Modern Lending Practices

More recently, the Financial Crash of 2008 devastated the country’s economy.  Upon further examination, the economic crisis disproportionately affected African Americans.  Black households were subject to predatory lending practices with high-interest mortgages and large balloon payments.[lix]  An ACLU report stated the following:

A big part of the reason that the recession hit black Americans so hard was that it gutted home values, and home ownership is a much more significant part of the group’s overall wealth.  Between 2007 and 2009, home equity for white Americans decreased by about 9 percent; for black Americans, the decrease was 12 percent.  In order to illustrate the importance of home equity to the wealth of black households, the ACLU compared total wealth for median black and white households in 2007 with and without factoring in home equity. Prior to the crash, the median wealth for a white household excluding a home was $92,950. For blacks that figure was $14,200. When factoring in home equity, the wealth of black households grew more than four-and-a-half times, to $63,060. For white households factoring in home equity helped wealth figures grow by only about two-and-a-half times to 244,000.[lx]

Regulatory oversight can help remedy this issue.  For example, the Department of Housing and Urban development ordered a bank in Wisconsin to pay $200 million after refusing to accept loans for Black and Hispanic applicants.[lxi]  Because of the historical lack of access to subsidized mortgages and opportunities to build wealth, African Americans are more likely to rent property today.

Despite redlining’s detrimental impact on today’s economic landscape, it is crucial to understand how political leaders are providing solutions to these issues to create a Philadelphia that more accurately reflects the original philosophies of a city that thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Penn envisioned.

Addressing Segregation and Inequality

Though the development of Philadelphia—especially during the twentieth century—created a segregated metropolitan area, there have been solutions to address the disparities caused by the de jure redlining policies first started under the era of the New Deal.  These potential solutions are examined briefly and can be taught within this unit plan or as their own, standalone curriculum units.

Affirmative Action

First introduced as an executive order by President John F. Kennedy, “affirmative action is a policy used by colleges and universities to improve the educational opportunities for minority groups (including minority races, genders, and sexual orientations) that are commonly and historically discriminated against.”[lxii]  Colleges and universities are not the exclusive adopters of this policy, as employers use it too.  After examining issues caused by redlining practices, affirmative action policies should expand to benefit racial minority groups, especially African Americans.  Communities must implement strategies that specifically focus on urban planning, too.

Zoning Laws

Zoning laws regulate how property can and cannot be used.  They determine a variety of things that attribute to a neighborhood’s aesthetic and functionality, such as lot size, building height, and sidewalk use.  Zoning boards can even create laws that allow for the building of single-family homes, making it unaffordable to families who may only be able to afford an apartment.  Some understand zoning to be the modern-day discriminatory practice that replaced redlining.  However, by modifying zoning laws, counties can provide more affordable housing.

Governments can revise their zoning policies to create a more democratic community.  For example, Rothstein proposed “a ban on zoning ordinances that prohibit multi-family housing or that require all single-family homes in a neighborhood to be built on large lots with high minimum requirements for square footage.  These rules prevent both lower-income and middle-class families from settling in affluent suburbs.”[lxiii]  The revision of zoning laws can have an enormous impact on previously marginalized communities.  For example, Montgomery County—the home of Lower Merion High School—saw a reduction in homelessness of up to thirty-three percent by substituting existing single-family home designations with multi-family property labels.[lxiv]  Policies such as these play a tremendous role in creating a more egalitarian city.

Public Housing

As part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society Program (1964-1965), the federal government created public housing vouchers.  Using practices of cooperative federalism, the federal government provides federal tax dollars to state and local government agencies such as the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA); the PHA takes a list of qualifying candidates and provides low-income families affordable and well-maintained housing at an affordable level.  The PHA has many programs, but perhaps the most popular program is the Section 8 Housing Voucher Program, which subsidizes rent costs for tenants.[lxv]

Adequately funding the Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as other local and state housing agencies can expand affordable housing for many Americans that redlining affected.  Carefully selecting the neighborhoods and communities to construct more housing units will create a more democratic city.


Ta-Nehisi Coates, an author, goes as far as to call for reparations for African American residents.  In an article in The Atlantic, Coates wrote that African Americans were ensured equal protection of the law under the Fourteenth Amendment.  Still, for reasons previously described, the federal government failed to ensure African American residents of this security.  To remedy the government’s failure, Coates wrote:

What I’m talking about is more than recompense for past injustices—more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe.  What I’m talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal.  Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage.  Reparations would mean the end of yelling “patriotism” while waving a Confederate flag.  Reparations would mean a revolution of American consciousness, a reconciling of our self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.[lxvi]

In other words, reparations cannot be a one-time payment made to the victims of redlining practices.  Instead, reparations must take form in the specific funding and policymaking for minority groups, but explicitly for the African American community.  This approach means society must fund everything from housing to healthcare systems to create a more egalitarian city that recognizes its historical injustices while ensuring a more democratic city today.

Thoughts for the Future

“One further conclusion follows from this concept of the city: social facts are primary, and the physical organization of a city, its industries and its markets, its lines of communication and traffic, must be subservient to its social needs.  Whereas in the development of the city during the last century we expanded the physical plant recklessly and treated the essential social nucleus, the organs of government and education and social service, as mere afterthought, today we must treat the social nucleus as the essential element in every valid city plan: the spotting and inter-relationship of schools, libraries, theaters, community centers is the first task in defining the urban neighborhood and laying down the outlines of an integrated city – Lewis Mumford in “What is a City?” from the Architectural Record [lxvii]

Here, Mumford outlines a much more optimistic approach towards urban planning compared to the first passage from this unit plan’s introduction, which directly preceded the above quote.  If cities keep in mind institutions that facilitate human interaction and community building such as the “schools, libraries, theaters, community centers” that Mumford mentions, then cities can begin to mold its residents into active citizens.

Using this method, returning to the philosophical principles of a city serves as a reminder that cities are places to build economies and create knowledgeable citizens.  In many ways, William Penn and Thomas Holme’s original concept of a grid layout in Philadelphia addressed these two things.  However, they did not extend the principles of egalitarianism to all of Philadelphia’s residents.  The de facto practices of redlining effectively barred working-class families, particularly black families, from achieving the same rights and liberties that Plato’s and Aristotle’s city offers.  In other words, policies of redlining have excluded African Americans from attaining full citizenship.

A city’s design, function, and philosophy influence the political, social, and economic rights of its residents.  Philadelphia never fully realized the principles of civic engagement and public discourse that saw the rise of its prominence.  Redlining practices and the move away from urban life aggravated reclusiveness and segregation.  The egalitarian principles that nurtured Philadelphia’s growth and success must also be applied to all of the city’s residents to ensure an egalitarian city truly.  Fortunately, leaders are working towards creating a democratic city today by considering policies on affirmative action, zoning laws, public housing, and reparations.

[i] Lewis Mumford, “What is a city?,” in The City Reader, ed. Richard T. LeGates and Frederick Stout (New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 112.

[ii] Mumford, 112.

[iii] Plato, “The Republic,” The Internet Classic Archives, Web Atomics, April 25, 2020,

[iv] Aristotle, “Politics,” The Internet Classic Archives, Web Atomics, April 25, 2020,

[v] Aristotle, “Politics.”

[vi] Jean R. Soderlund, “Native Peoples to 1680,” The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden, Rutgers University at Camden, 2014),

[vii] Andrew Newman, “Treaty of Shackamaxon,” The Encyclopedia if Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[viii] Andrew Newman, “Treaty of Shackamaxon.”

[ix] Stephanie Grauman Wolf, “Pennsylvania (Founding),” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[x] Grauman Wolf, “Pennsylvania (Founding).”

[xi] Emma J. Lapsansky Werner, “Holy Experiment,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[xii] Matthew A. Zimmerman, “First Purchasers of Pennsylvania,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[xiii] Linda A. Ries, “Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[xiv] Catharine Dann Roeber and Charlene Mires, “Center City,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2019),

[xv] “A Map of the Original City of Philadelphia,” Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, April 25, 2020,

[xvi] Hillary S. Kativa, “Capital of the United States (Selection of Philadelphia),” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015),

[xvii] Stephen Nepa, “Taverns,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[xviii] James J. Watt, “Printing and Publishing,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[xix] Michelle Craig McDonald, “Coffeehouses,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[xx] Brooke Sylvia Palmieri, “American Philosophical Society,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[xxi] John Saillant, “Common Sense,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015),

[xxii] Andrew Diemer, “Free Black Communities,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2017),

[xxiii] Richard S. Newman, “Abolitionism,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2012),

[xxiv] Michael Karpyn, “Declaration of Independence,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2012),

[xxv] Elise Kammerer, “Free African Society,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[xxvi] Charlene Mires and Jacbo Downs, “Industrial Neighborhoods,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2014),

[xxvii]Amanda Casper, “Row Houses,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[xxviii] Andrew Heath, “Consolidation Act of 1854,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[xxix] Heath, “Consolidation Act of 1854.”

[xxx] Heath, “Consolidation Act of 1854.”

[xxxi] W.E.B. Du Bois, “The Negro Problems of Philadelphia,” in The City Reader, ed. Richard T. LeGates and Frederick Stout (New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 126.

[xxxii] Du Bois, 126.

[xxxiii] Du Bois, 125.

[xxxiv] Du Bois, 125.

[xxxv] John Hepp, “Streetcars,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[xxxvi] John Hepp, “Subways and Elevated Lines,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[xxxvii] James Wolfinger, “African American Migration,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013),

[xxxviii] Wolfinger, “African American Migration.”

[xxxix] Wolfinger.

[xl] “The Federal Housing Administration,” The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, April 25, 2020,

[xli] Dylan Gottlieb, “I-95,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015),

[xlii] Mary Yee, “Vine Street Expressway,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015),

[xliii] Kristen B. Crossney, “Redlining,” The Encylopedia of Greater Philadelphia, (Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016),

[xliv] Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (New York: Liveright Publishing, 2017), 93.

[xlv] Property Service Inc., Philadelphia Racial Map, photographed by Alexander de Arana (June 1943; Philadelphia: Property Service Inc.), Map.

[xlvi] Plato, “The Republic.”

[xlvii] Image Copyright, 2013, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia (Dustin A. Cable, creator).

[xlviii] Robert Fishman, “Beyond Suburbia: The Rise of the Technoburb,” in The City Reader, ed. Richard T. LeGates and Frederick Stout (New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016), 87.

[xlix] Alexander de Arana, “Understanding the Importance of the Fourth Estate through the Lead Public Health Crisis,” Teachers Institute of Philadelphia, April 25, 2020,

[l] Barbara Laker, Wendy Ruderman, and Dylan Purcell, “Toxic City: Sick Schools,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), May 3, 2018,

[li] Wendy Ruderman and Kristen A. Graham, “Cancer in the Classroom,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), Nov. 21, 2019,

[lii] Dr. William Hite, “12 of PA’s Urban School Superintendants: Harrisburg Should Do More to Help Our Students,” The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA), Apr. 12, 2019,

[liii] Emma Brown, “PA Schools Are the Nation’s Most Inequitable.  The New Governor Wants to Fix That,” The Washington Post (Washington DC), Apr. 22, 2015,

[liv] “The Importance of Fair School Funding,” Education Law Center, Education Law Center, April 25, 2020,

[lv] Alexander de Arana, “On Criminal Justice Reform: Studying Philadelphia’s New, Reform-Minded District Attorney through a Historical Context,” Yale National Initiative, April 25, 2020,

[lvi] Alexander de Arana.

[lvii] “He Sued Police 75 Times.  Democrats Want Him as Philadelphia’s Top Prosecutor,” The New York Times (New York, NY), Jun. 17, 2017,

[lviii] Laura McCrystal, “Philadelphia’s Controversial 10-Year Tax Abatement Soon Could Change for the First Time.  Here’s What You Need to Know,” The Philadelphia Inquirer  (Philadelphia, PA), November 27, 2019,,the%20value%20of%20the%20improvements.

[lix] Gillian B. White, “The Recession’s Racial Slant,” The Atlantic (Washington DC), Jun. 24, 2015,

[lx] White, “The Recession’s Racial Slant.”

[lxi] White, “The Recession’s Racial Slant.”

[lxii] Emma Sarran Webster, “Affirmative Action: What It Is and How It Works,” Teen Vogue (New York, NY), Aug. 14, 2017,

[lxiii] Rothstein, The Color of Law, 93.

[lxiv] Emma Hertz, “Housing in Montgomery County,” PowerPoint, Montgomery County Office of Housing and Community Development, April 26, 2020.

[lxv] “About the Housing Choice Voucher Program,” Philadelphia Housing Authority, April 26, 2020,

[lxvi] Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic (Washington DC), Jun. 2014,

[lxvii] Mumford, “What is a city?,” 112.

Teaching Strategies

The unit plan uses the following teaching strategies to teach the content background.  While the curriculum uses other instructional methods, these strategies are listed to most effectively teach the content at Bodine High School.

Guided Reading

Students will read journals, magazines, government documents, and newspaper articles.  They will also listen to podcasts and watch video clips, as this is the way that many people receive their news today.  By relying on and citing textual evidence from contemporary news sources, debating topics of housing and city planning will improve literacy and critical thinking skills.

Field Trip

Among the many programs we work on is the study of school funding with a partnership exchange between Bodine High School and the author’s alma mater, Methacton High School.  Students from both schools read Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools and Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.  After reading these books, students visit each other’s location, exploring questions of social justice in a society where such disparities in funding and opportunity exist between schools as a result of redlining practices.  This method provides students with the opportunity, rarely provided across such stark economic lines, to talk to each other.  Bodine is a high achieving, high poverty school, and yet the disparities between the two schools in terms of funding and support are striking.  The author’s students get their books through fundraising done by Methacton educators and gifts from the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Ethnographic Study

After reading Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools and Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, students will conduct ethnographic research for a neighborhood of their choosing within Philadelphia’s city limits.  For example, a group may choose to study gentrification and rates of renting in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood.  Students will research their selected neighborhood as it relates to two topics of study using databases to search for articles in academic journals and contemporary periodicals.


Classroom Activities

The following lesson plans are listed and described below to ensure that students properly understand the unit’s concepts.  This list of activities is not an exhaustive list for this curriculum unit.  (Note: SWBAT = Students will be able to; IOT= in order to).

Lesson 1: Philosophy of a City

SWBAT compare primary and secondary sources IOT develop their own philosophy of a city.

  • Aristotle’s Politics
  • Plato’s The Republic
  • Stephanie Grauman Wolf’s “Holy Experiment”
  • Thomas Jefferson’s The Declaration of Independence
  • E.B. DuBois’ The Negro Problems of Philadelphia

Students will read primary and secondary sources that describe various perspectives of the philosophy of a city.  Students will compare each of the readings to understand how each author’s views are unique.  Students will participate in a class discussion to share their thoughts with their peers.

Ultimately, students will create their philosophy of a city.  Drawing upon these readings, students will prepare a statement describing what they believe the purpose of a city is.  Students will be required to explain how their background and experience in cities and in Philadelphia, specifically, have influenced their view.  Students’ statements will be referenced throughout the unit plan, especially when students learn about redlining.  This practice allows students to analyze whether particular events in Philadelphia’s history fit into their philosophy of what a city is.

Lesson 2: Map Study

SWBAT examine the correlation between current US Census data and redlining maps from the nineteenth century IOT understand how redlining practices contributed to today’s segregation

  • University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service’s The Racial Dot Map
  • University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab’s Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America

Students will research the geographic location of ten school districts throughout Pennsylvania.  Using the Racial Dot Map, students will then examine the racial composition of those geographies.  Finally, students will compare these landscapes to the Mapping Inequality maps, which juxtaposes the redlined maps from the New Deal Era with Google Maps.  Students will then write a reflection asking them about their observations and if they can connect the evidence of racial segregation to other contemporary issues.

Lesson 3: How to Buy a House

SWBAT weigh the advantages of a subsidized loan IOT understand how the Federal Housing Administration contributed to suburbanization

  • Zillow, Trulia, or Apartment Finder
  • Google Mortgage Calculator

This activity is one of the first in the unit.  After learning about the advantages of homeownership and how down payments and compounding interest rates operate in the housing market, students research a single-family home using the Zillow, Trulia, or Apartment Finder websites.  Using the house that they choose, students use the Google Mortgage Calculator to complete the table shown below.  (The interest rates shown below reflect the average mortgage interest rate at the time that the author wrote this lesson.)  Students will then participate in a discussion in which the teacher asks probing questions to encourage students to examine the benefits of a subsidized mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration.

Lending Institution Down Payment Down Payment Amount Mortgage Interest Rate Mortgage Term Length Monthly Payment Total Mortgage Amount
Bank #1 20% $ 3.70% 30 $ $
Bank #2 20% $ 3.25% 20 $ $
Credit Union 20% $ 3.40% 30 $ $
Lesson 4: Ethnography

SWBAT study a Philadelphia neighborhood IOT connect housing policy to their topics of study

  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
  • New Visions for Public Schools chapter guides for The Color of Law
  • Databases such as JSTOR and Google Scholar
  • Newspapers such as The Philadelphia Inquirer and The New York Times
  • Google Slides

Grouped into groups of four students each, students will read portions of Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law so that each student reads the same number of chapters, and each group reads the entire book.  Using the chapter guides, students will answer guided questions and define vocabulary that is new to them.

In their groups, students will be assigned a region of Philadelphia by the teacher from the following: Center City, North Philadelphia, Uptown, Northeast Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, West Philadelphia, and Southwest Philadelphia.  Each group may choose a neighborhood within their region to examine more closely.  Additionally, students will study two topics of study as they relate to their selected neighborhoods.  For example, some groups must study North Philadelphia, so they may choose to examine race/ethnicity and public transportation access in the Logan neighborhood of North Philadelphia.

Students will use JSTOR, Google Scholar, and The Philadelphia Inquirer to research academic sources regarding their topics of study.  Together, groups will create a Google Slides presentation that connects the practices of redlining Richard Rothstein discusses in his book to their studied neighborhood.  Students must draw explicit connections to the book and how redlining has influenced their studied neighborhood today.  Students must also include five neighborhood growth points, five questions to ask policymakers, and a potential solution to address the problem that they studied.  Each Google Slide presentation is with the class in a gallery walk.


The resources that this curriculum unit used during the research process of this unit plan are listed below.  The first three sections contain references that will benefit teachers across the United States.  The last section contains materials that are specific to Pennsylvania and Philadelphia.  Teachers should feel encouraged to research how redlining policies affected their state and city.

Annotated Bibliography for Teachers

Aristotle.  “Politics.”  The Internet Classic Archives, Web Atomics.  Accessed April 25, 2020.  LeGates and

Stout’s compilation of articles and excerpts create a book that examines topics, including urban planning and city politics.  Aristotle’s “Politics” argues that the city is the place where man becomes a citizen.

Coates, Ta-Nehisi.  “The Case for Reparations.”  The Atlantic.  Washington DC.  Accessed June 2014.

Coates examines how redlining impacted North Lawndale, a predominately African American community in West Chicago.  At the same time, Coates expresses that governments must explicitly create public policy that benefits the black community among other minority groups in the form of robust reparations for historical injustices.

Fishman, Robert.  “Beyond Suburbia: The Rise of the Technoburb.”  The City Reader.  Edited by Richard T. LeGates and Frederick Stout.  New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Fishman discusses how the contemporary suburb has become further detached from the city through the rise of a new industry in the form of technology.

De Arana, Alexander.  “On Criminal Justice Reform: Studying Philadelphia’s New, Reform-Minded District Attorney through a Historical Context.”  Yale National Initiative.  Accessed April 25, 2020.

In this unit plan, I analyze the history of the criminal justice system in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Much of this history directly connects to redlining practices.

De Arana, Alexander.  “Understanding the Importance of the Fourth Estate through the Lead Public Health Crisis.”  Teachers Institute of Philadelphia.  Accessed April 25, 2020.

I explain how the current building conditions in the School District of Philadelphia are a result of a lack of school funding and how the role of the media can help inform Philadelphia residents to better act as a watchdog on the government.

Mumford, Lewis.  “What is a city?”  The City Reader.  Edited by Richard T. LeGates and Frederick Stout.  New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Mumford describes his view of a city and what happens when society ignores the philosophical tenets of a city.

Plato.  “The Republic.”  The Internet Classic Archives, Web Atomics.  Accessed April 25, 2020.  Unlike Aristotle,

Plato stresses the city as a hub of economic activity.

“The Federal Housing Administration.”  The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Accessed April 25, 2020.

This federal website gives a brief overview of the history of the Federal Housing Administration.

Webster, Emma Sarran.  “Affirmative Action: What It Is and How It Works.”  Teen Vogue (New York, NY).  Accessed August 14, 2017.

Webster’s article provides a straightforward explanation of what affirmative action policies are concerning college admissions.

White, Gillian B.  “The Recession’s Racial Slant.”  The Atlantic.  Washington DC.  Accessed June 24, 2015.

This piece examines the devastating effects the Financial Crash of 2008 left of the African American community.

Student Reading List

Image Copyright, 2013.  Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.  Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia.  Dustin A. Cable, creator.

Taken as a screenshot from the University of Virginia’s The Racial Dot Map, this image shows how redlining practices affect modern-day racial segregation.  Students can use this to research their city and neighborhood.

Rothstein, Richard.  The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America.  New York: Liveright Publishing, 2017.

Rothstein argues that federal, state, and local governments participated in redlining practices using government subsidies.  Rothstein’s book illustrates that de facto segregation is, in fact, a myth.  Students read this book using the New Visions for Public Schools chapter guides.

Property Service Inc.  Philadelphia Racial Map.  Photographed by Alexander de Arana.  June 1943; Philadelphia: Property Service Inc.

The Philadelphia City Archives holds the only copy of a redlining map.  Accompanied by a letter from a real estate company, students can examine how redlining policies shaped their neighborhood.

“The Color of Law Chapter Guides.”  New Visions for Public Schools.  Accessed April 25, 2020.

These chapter guides assist students by providing vocabulary lists and guided questions to comprehend Rothstein’s book.

Resources Specific to Philadelphia and Pennsylvania

“A Map of the Original City of Philadelphia.”  Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  Historical Society of Pennsylvania.  Accessed April 25, 2020.

This photo shows the original grid layout that Penn and Holme designed.

“About the Housing Choice Voucher Program.”  Philadelphia Housing Authority.  Accessed April 26, 2020.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority’s website explains the criteria needed to qualify for a housing voucher.

Atherton, Michelle J. and Rubado, Meghan E.  “Hold Harmless Education Finance Policies in the United States.”  Center on Regional Politics.  Published April 25, 2020.

This study examines the impact of Pennsylvania’s hold harmless school funding policy.

Brown, Emma.  “PA Schools Are the Nation’s Most Inequitable.  The New Governor Wants to Fix That.”  The Washington Post.  Washington DC.  Published Apr. 22, 2015.

Brown analyzes Pennsylvania’s school funding formula.

Casper, Amanda.  “Row Houses.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.  Casper explains the significance of the typical row house in Philadelphia and how it symbolizes the ideal working-class home.

Crossney, Kristen B.  “Redlining.  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

Using maps and images, Crossney illustrates the impact of redlining policies in Philadelphia in this piece.

Diemer, Andrew.  “Free Black Communities,” The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2017.

Diemer details the history of free African Americans in Philadelphia since the colonial era.

Drake, Thomas E.  “London Coffee House Historical Marker.”, 1965.

This website describes how coffeehouses were meetinghouses for politicians and merchants during the Age of Enlightenment.

Du Bois, W.E.B.  “The Negro Problems of Philadelphia.”  The City Reader.  Edited by Richard T. LeGates and Frederick Stout.  New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

As a student at the University of Pennsylvania, Du Bois studies the historically black neighborhood, Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward.

Gottlieb, Dylan.  “I-95.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015.

Gottlieb explains the development of the I-95 highway and its contribution to white flight.

Grauman Wolf, Stephanie.  “Pennsylvania (Founding).”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

In this encyclopedic entry, Grauman analyzes the role William Penn played in founding the Pennsylvania colony.

“He Sued Police 75 Times.  Democrats Want Him as Philadelphia’s Top Prosecutor.”  The New York Times.  New York, NY.  Published 17, 2017.

This article examines Krasner’s candidacy for District Attorney of Philadelphia.

Hepp, John.  “Streetcars.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.

Hepp writes about the history of streetcars in Philadelphia.

Hepp, John.  “Subways and Elevated Lines.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.

Hepp connects the development of Philadelphia’s subway system to the streetcar transportation system.

Hertz, Emma.  “Housing in Montgomery County.”  PowerPoint.  Montgomery County Office of Housing and Community Development.  Accessed April 26, 2020.

Hertz lectures how zoning policies were changed to reduce homelessness throughout Montgomery County.

Heath, Andrew.  “Consolidation Act of 1854.  “The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.

Heath argues that the Consolidation Act of 1854 stemmed from issues of policing and raising revenue in Philadelphia.

Hite, William.  “12 of PA’s Urban School Superintendents: Harrisburg Should Do More to Help Our Students.”  The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Philadelphia, PA.  Published April 12, 2019.

Hite writes an open letter to the state legislature calling for more funding for Pennsylvania’s urban school districts.

Inland Architect.  Volume 22.  Number 3.  Courtesy Ryerson and Burnham Libraries.  The Art Institute of Chicago.

This library shows a typical Philadelphia row house from a fair that took place in Chicago.

“Interior Map.”  City Hall: Virtual Tour of Philadelphia.  City of Philadelphia.  Accessed April 25, 2020.

The city government’s website illustrates the history of City Hall.

Kammerer, Elise.  “Free African Society.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

Kammerer discusses how the Age of Enlightenment affected African American philosophers in Philadelphia.

Karpyn, Michael.  “Declaration of Independence.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2012.

Karpyn explains the drafting process of the Declaration of Independence.

Kativa, Hillary S.  “Capital of the United States (Selection of Philadelphia).”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015.

Kativa describes the brief period when Philadelphia was the nation’s capital.

Laker, Barbara; Ruderman, Wendy; and Purcell, Dylan.  “Toxic City: Sick Schools.” The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Philadelphia, PA.  Published May 3, 2018.

Laker, Ruderman, and Purcell’s in-depth study of Philadelphia’s schools was a Pulitzer finalist.  It reports on hazards of lead, asbestos, and asthma triggers throughout buildings in the School District of Philadelphia.

Lapsansky Werner, Emma J.  “Holy Experiment.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

Lapsansky Werner outlines Penn’s vision for an egalitarian society in this article.

McCrystal, Laura.  “Philadelphia’s Controversial 10-Year Tax Abatement Soon Could Change for the First Time.  Here’s What You Need to Know.”  The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Philadelphia, PA.  Published November 27, 2019.,the%20value%20of%20the%20improvements.

McCrystal highlights the fight versus Philadelphia’s tax abatement.

McDonald, Michelle Craig.  “Coffeehouses.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

The Age of Enlightenment resulted in discussions about politics that citizens engaged in at coffee houses, and this article explains that well.

Mires Charlene and Downs, Jacob.  “Industrial Neighborhoods.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2014.

Before consolidating in 1854, industrial towns surrounded Philadelphia.  The authors of this piece discuss the history of these neighborhoods.

Nepa, Stephen.  “Taverns.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.

Nepa writes about the role of taverns during the American Revolutionary War.

Newman, Andrew.  “Treaty of Shackamaxon.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.

Newman lists the details of the treaty between the Lenape and William Penn.

Newman, Richard S.  “Abolitionism.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2012.

Philadelphia was the birthplace of abolitionist groups.  Newman recites the history of abolitionists in Philadelphia.

Palmieri, Brooke Sylvia.  “American Philosophical Society.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

Palmieri explains the history of Benjamin Franklin’s American Philosophical Society during the eighteenth century.

Ries, Linda A.  “Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges.  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

Rise studies the history of the charter that granted Penn jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania colony.

Robinson, Martha K.  “British Occupation of Philadelphia.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

This piece analyzes how many British loyalists there were in Philadelphia before the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War.

Roeber, Catharine Dann and Mires, Charlene.  “Center City.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2019.

This entry details the history of Philadelphia’s original borders.

Ruderman Wendy and Graham, Kristen A.  “Cancer in the Classroom.”  The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Philadelphia, PA.  Published November 21, 2019.

Ruderman and Graham report on a Philadelphia teacher that diagnosed with mesothelioma.

Saillant, John.  “Common Sense.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015.

Thomas Paine’s pamphlet was influential for American revolutionists.  Saillant explains that in this article.

Soderlund, Jean R.  “Native Peoples to 1680.”   The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2014.

Soderland analyzes the history of indigenous peoples in the Delaware Valley region.

“The Importance of Fair School Funding.”  Education Law Center.  Education Law Center.  Published April 25, 2020.

This piece describes the inequity of Pennsylvania’s school funding formula.

Watt, James J.  “Printing and Publishing.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.

Watt illustrates the importance of the printing press during the Age of Enlightenment.

Wolf, Stephanie Grauman. “Holy Experiment.” In The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia. Camden: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.

Wolf examines Penn’s vision for Philadelphia.

Wolfinger, James.  “African American Migration.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2013.

Wolfinger describes the two waves of the Great Migration.

Wood, Sam.  “Is Lead Poisoning in PA, NJ Even Worse than Flint?”  The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Philadelphia, PA.  Published February 4, 2016.

This article compares studies of lead in Philadelphia and Flint.

Yee, Mary.  “Vine Street Expressway.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2015.

Yee writes about the construction of the Vine Street Expressway.

Zimmerman, Matthew A.  “First Purchasers of Pennsylvania.”  The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.  Camden: Rutgers University at Camden, 2016.

Zimmerman captures how Penn sold the land of Pennsylvania to investors.


Below is a list of standards from the history and social studies section of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.  These standards will be used as a guideline to allow students to think critically about the issue of mass incarceration.

Civics and Government

Standard – 5.2.12.C: Evaluate political leadership and public service in a republican form of government.  Students examine the role the Roosevelt and Johnson Administrations had in expanding homeownership for the United States’ population.

Standard – 5.3.12.J: Evaluate critical issues in various contemporary governments.  In this unit, students analyze the role housing plays in topics such as schooling and mass incarceration.


Standard – 6.3.12.A: Evaluate the costs and benefits of government decisions to provide public goods and services.  Students discuss the relationship housing has with economic policy.