How racist policies shaped Lansing neighborhoods

Michigan

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS)– Michigan’s capital city went through a lot of changes during the 1960’s to become more modern. But those changes came at the cost of forcing hundreds of black families to leave.

Dozens came to the Capital Area District Library for a conversation about the policies that shaped Lansing’s neighborhoods, starting with the building of Interstate 496.

“It was something that kind of caught everybody off guard,” says Kenneth Turner, a lifelong Lansing resident. He remembers watching people forced to leave their homes to make room for the highway.

“Typical day, you go outside and you know all your friends are right there. You’re running, playing, doing things all day long. And when the highway came through and people were constantly moving out, you saw them going and they were gone.”

This conversation is able to happen through the city’s Pave the Way project which is exploring the impact the highway had on Lansing and its nearby suburbs.

Mary Jane McGuire is one Lansing resident who remembers how challenging it was to find housing after the highway project started. She and her husband faced discrimination through redlining and restrictive covenants as they searched for a new house. She describes being met with a sudden change, after touring a potential home by herself.

“Once they found out that we were a racial couple, of an African-American heritage, then they had it added to the offer,” she says of a restrictive clause. “They had it added to their listings that they would not sell to negroes.”

“You know now, we can go where we want to,” Turner says. “If you got the money, you can go. But back then, I just wonder what our parents’ mindset was.”

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