In this May 10, 2015 picture, children play with a basketball in front of a vacant home, left, and a restored home in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. From 2011 to 2013, Census figures show an additional 77 families with incomes above $200,000 settled in Baltimore’s 21217 ZIP code, which includes Reservoir Hill and the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
In this May 10, 2015 picture, children play with a basketball in front of a vacant home, left, and a restored home in the Reservoir Hill neighborhood of Baltimore. From 2011 to 2013, Census figures show an additional 77 families with incomes above $200,000 settled in Baltimore’s 21217 ZIP code, which includes Reservoir Hill and the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (The Associated Press)

Fifty-one years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. turned his attention from the blatant segregation of the South toward the more subtle but equally real and insidious segregation of the North. That year, he moved his family to a slum apartment in Chicago as part of the Chicago Freedom Movement, an effort to end the policies and practices by which blacks and whites were kept in separate and profoundly unequal neighborhoods. The cause King and his allies (including a very young Rev. Jesse Jackson) fought for was not just that blacks and whites should live side by side but that they should have access to the same economic, social and educational opportunities. "Yes, we are tired of being lynched physically in Mississippi," King said in a speech at the Chicago Freedom Movement Rally that July. "And we are tired of being lynched spiritually and economically in the North."

The Freedom Movement held marches and protests — prompting at times violent reactions from whites — and it sent white and black couples to real estate agents and apartment managers to see what neighborhoods and buildings they would be steered to. Then-mayor Richard Daley, concerned about the prospect for additional violence if the marches continued — or perhaps just hoping to make the issue go away — arranged a summit to negotiate reforms. Daley promised changes in the city's public housing, and the mortgage lenders agreed to new practices to make loans available to all races. King would later conclude that Chicago had reneged on the deal, but the effort would produce a lasting legacy anyway: In 1968, immediately following King's assassination, Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits the kind of race-based housing and mortgage lending practices King found in Chicago.


He might just as easily have made Baltimore the test city for his campaign, as it can lay claim to having invented the tools of housing segregation that were employed in Chicago and elsewhere. In his book "Not in my Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City" — a must-read if you want to know how Baltimore got the way it is — former Sun editorial writer Antero Pietila documents more than a century of efforts to keep blacks and whites in separate neighborhoods in Baltimore, first through blatantly racist legislation and then, after the Supreme Court struck those laws down, through restrictive covenants and other quasi-legal means. Later, the city was a hotbed of blockbusting — a practice in which unscrupulous real estate agents and others exploited racial animus to benefit financially from white flight.

Much has changed in Baltimore since King's death and the riots that followed, but the unrest of 2015 called the world's attention to just how much has stayed the same. For all the new development that has taken place, particularly downtown and around the waterfront, huge swaths of the city, including Freddie Gray's Sandtown-Winchester, remain little different from the Chicago neighborhoods King described in 1966, with low-quality (and often lead-riddled) housing, failing schools and widespread poverty.

We sought to quantify the change since that time. In the half-century since King's death and the passage of the fair housing act, are Baltimore's neighborhoods any more integrated?

With the help of the University of Minnesota's National Historical Geographical Information System and Jin Bae Kim and Adam Marton from The Sun's data visualization team, we were able to analyze census tract-level data on the racial characteristics of Baltimore's neighborhoods in 1970 and in 2010, when the last decennial census was conducted. We looked not at percentage of minorities in a particular neighborhood — after all, an all-black neighborhood is just as segregated as an all-white one — but rather at a measure called the "diversity index." It measures the probability that any two given people in a census tract are of different races. A high score means that the neighborhood is integrated, a low score means that it is segregated — regardless of which race predominates. It's a good measure for our purposes in that it gets at what a person's real-life experience is in a particular neighborhood; walking down the street, do you see only people who look like you, or do you see a mix of races?

(A technical note: The racial categories used in the 1970 census — white, Negro, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Korean and other — are, as you might expect, not the ones the Census Bureau uses today. We combined some categories to produce a closer match to the current ones. In addition, the 1970 data includes no information on Hispanic origin. Because Latinos are a burgeoning group in Baltimore, we believed it was important to include them in the 2010 analysis. We combined all those of Hispanic origin, regardless of their race, into a separate category.)

The 1970 map shows huge swaths of segregation throughout most of the city, but particularly West Baltimore, East Baltimore, North Baltimore and Northeast Baltimore. Of the 207 census tracts in the city at the time, 119 had diversity scores of less than 10 percent, meaning there was a better than 90 percent chance that any two people who lived there were of the same race. In 25 of them, the chances were higher than 99 percent. In only eight tracts was there better than a 50 percent chance that any two people would be of different races.

By 2010, at least some degree of racial integration had spread through most of the city. A cluster of neighborhoods around Patterson Park and the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center are among the city's most diverse, thanks to a mix of black, white and Hispanic residents. The same is true in Brooklyn and Curtis Bay. The northeast corridor neighborhoods — places like Hamilton and Lauraville — are much more integrated than they were 50 years ago; that's even true to a degree the city's wealthy, formerly all-white enclaves. The Roland Park of 2010 has a diversity score of 40.4 percent, making it more integrated than nearly 90 percent of Baltimore neighborhoods were in 1970. Of particular note, Baltimore's fastest growing neighborhood today, the traditional central business district, is also one of its most integrated.

But the neighborhoods of East Baltimore and West Baltimore remain just as segregated as they were 50 years ago.

Last summer, the Obama administration announced new rules designed to ensure that the federal government finally lives up to the Fair Housing Act's mandate that it actively seek to reduce segregation. But Dr. Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, has spoken out forcefully against that policy, calling such policies "mandated social engineering" backed by a "tortured reading" of fair housing law. In his confirmation hearing this week, he answered a question about it by inveighing against "people sitting around in desks in Washington, D.C., deciding on how things should be done."

But whether you're sitting at a desk in Washington or on a stoop in Sandtown, a few things should by now be obvious. The racial segregation in East and West Baltimore is not changing on its own, and its effects are profound. Harvard researchers reported in 2015 that Baltimore was the worst large jurisdiction in the country when it came to the long-term economic effects of growing up poor, and it wasn't close. Meanwhile, Baltimore's most potent tool to break up concentrated poverty, the Housing Mobility Program that helps families on public assistance to move to higher-opportunity areas in the city and suburbs, has stopped taking applications. It has helped about 3,500 families so far and has about 1,000 more vouchers to give out — but a wait list of 12,000.

In Chicago, King sought to open the eyes of those in power to the injustices of "rat-infested slums" with "inferior, segregated and overcrowded schools" and "discrimination in employment" that gives advantages to people "with less training, ability and experience simply because they are white." Can Dr. Carson open his eyes to the places that are no different today?