The plans, laws, and investments made today will shape our communities tomorrow. Indeed, past policies have deep connections to present conditions. Even the most obscure tax codes and legislative acts can lead to tragic outcomes for some communities while paving the way for triumphant opportunities for others. Whether at the Federal, State, or Local level, understanding the laws of the land and the context in which they were created is critical to understanding how disparities have arisen and to improving the health, education, transportation, housing, and economic landscapes of our cities in an equitable and sustainable way.

The following report provides an overview of the historical policy and development practices which have deeply influenced the contemporary geography of opportunity, segregation and inequity in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The research presented here identifies the unique, long-lasting impact of development policies and the connection between racial discrimination and neighborhood planning and real estate development which persisted for much of the 20th century. A history of policy and practice supported segregation and isolation from opportunity for low income communities and communities of color.

Our research also clearly traces the connection between today’s community and health challenges and the policies of the past, which encouraged segregation and disinvestment from certain parts of the County. We present this historical assessment not to simply criticize past practices, but as a learning tool to provide insight into how we evaluate policy decisions today and how lessons from history should inform our work to support an equitable, just, health and prosperous Cuyahoga County.