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Murder, Redlining, and the Fight for Jamaica Plain

In “Redlined: A Novel of Boston” by Richard W. Wise, an organizer's murder in 1970s Jamaica Plain exposes
July 12, 2020, 7am PDT | LM_Ortiz
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An organizer, eager to discover who is responsible for the destruction of her Boston neighborhood of Jamaica Plain, stakes out a vacant building that arsonists are expected to hit. Shortly after 2 a.m., a car stops and its passengers enter the structure. Minutes later they return to the vehicle and speed off into the night. Curious as to what took place inside the building, community organizer Sandy Morgan enters one of its open apartments. Within moments, the arsonists’ timer triggers a violent blast that hurls her body against a brick wall, killing her instantly.

With a deep understanding that’s largely based upon his experience working as a community organizer in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Richard W. Wise tells a powerful story of the urban development wars that took place at a time when powerful developers, financiers, politicians, and nonprofit leaders promoting upscale place-making in pursuit of “trickle-down benefits” were pitted against poor and working-class residents struggling to preserve their neighborhoods. In the first few pages of Redlined: A Novel of Boston, Wise seizes the attention of readers eager to know who caused Sandy Morgan’s death. He then quickly exposes them to an epic battle over the future of American cities being waged in low-income communities throughout the U.S. during the last quarter of the 20th century. This semi-autobiographical novel describes how a small group of community activists, working through their churches, compelled the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to require banks to disclose where they were making loans. The clear pattern of discrimination revealed by the data subsequently helps this network of faith-based organizations negotiate a major reinvestment agreement with local lenders.

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Published on Wednesday, July 8, 2020 in Shelterforce Magazine
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