Students Tap in to Cleveland’s Past to Understand its Present

Woman points to 1930s era redline maps of Cleveland, showing social work students the history of Cleveland housing segregation

A group of second-year social work students recently got a first-hand account of how federal policies negatively discriminated against African Americans and had lasting, systemic effects on Cleveland’s east side neighborhoods and citizens.

Earlier this month, students in the community practice for social change program at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University were given a guided tour of Undesign the Redline, an exhibit that provides a powerful visualization of how federal policies y of housing discrimination promoted  segregation and subsidized all-white suburbs. These policies continue to affect political and social issues today in Cleveland. 

“I had asked the students prior to leaving campus what they were feeling about the history of redlining. At the end of the day, I asked them again,” said Mark Chupp, PhD, chair of the concentration in community practice for social change, and the faculty member who led the class. “One student said ‘enraged’ before and ‘armed and motivated’ after. Many students had a similar shift in attitude. They want everyone to know this history so they will stop blaming the victims of these federal policies.”

Getting out into the community to understand how politics, economics and history affect the lives of individuals and neighborhoods is a defining element of the educational experience at the Mandel School. In addition to class visits to local institutions and exhibits like Undesign the Redline, social work students take part in field education that provides more than $7.7 million in economic impact annually at more than 1,000 sites across the country.