The Color of Money
Text of the Pulitzer-winning articlesBack to Power Reporting
This page links to the text of "The Color of Money," a series of articles on lenders avoiding middle-income black neighborhoods.
Bill Dedman received the Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting in 1989 for researching and writing these articles.
The Color of Money was an influential early example of the power of using computers to gather and analyze public records, combined with shoe-leather reporting to demonstrate how a segregated mortgage market was maintained. The Color of Money led to expanded federal laws on disclosure of loan data, new financing for middle-income homebuyers, and greater awareness of systemic discrimination.
The first series, published May 1-4, 1988, disclosed that Atlanta's banks and savings and loan institutions, although they had made loans for years in even the poorest white neighborhoods of Atlanta, did not lend in middle-class or more affluent black neighborhoods. The focus moved to lenders across the nation with Dedman's January 1989 article, "Blacks turned down for home loans from S&Ls twice as often as whites."
As a result of The Color of Money, Congress expanded the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to provide more information to the public on the pattern of activity by all mortgage lenders.
The U.S. Justice Department responded to The Color of Money by focusing greater attention on unequal lending, suing a large savings and loan association in United States v. Decatur Federal Savings & Loan. In the first mortgage lending case in the United States, the federal government alleged that Decatur Federal applied stricter underwriting standards to African-American applicants than to white applicants and devised ways to avoid dealing with African-Americans. In a consent decree, the bank agreed to pay $1 million to compensate 48 victims of discrimination and to take a series of corrective measures to ensure compliance with federal fair lending laws.
Along with responses from government, Atlanta's largest banks agreed to lend $65 million at low rates to moderate-income borrowers, particularly on the city's black Southside.
The articles are reprinted here with permission from The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. You can also download a PDF version of the original articles and photographs (12MB file). The PDF file has the benefit of including Doug Marlette's cartoons. Just click on any of the images on this page.
For a PDF version of the original articles and photographs, click on Doug Marlette's cartoon. (And remember that Doug's cartoon ran on the editorial page, not in the news columns.)
- Day one, May 1, 1988:
- Atlanta blacks losing in home loans scramble: Banks favor white areas by 5-1 margin
- Fulton's Michael Lomax: "If I can't get a loan, what black person can?"
- A tale of two neighborhoods, one black and one white
- How study of home loans in metro Atlanta was carried out
- Ranking banks on black vs. white loans
- Ranking lenders on black, working-class loans
- Day two, May 2, 1988:
- Southside treated like banks' stepchild?
- Selling lettuce, he built $3 million firm, but can't get business loan
- Poor may be left behind by bank deregulation
- Activists picket residence of HUD secretary
- Where blacks bank
- Small-business lending
- Day three, May 3, 1988:
- A test that few banks fail -- in federal eyes
- Despite "good citizen" image, Trust Company finds itself in a battle
- The 12 factors in a CRA examination
- Day four, May 4, 1988:
- Bank protesters in Atlanta make ready to flex muscle
- City Council calls meeting to review lending patterns
- Months of work, but lending pool still bone-dry
- Self-help the aim of non-profit housing corporations
- "Anybody can sit out there and mouth off -- he gets things done"
- City Hall clout could sweeten home-loan pot
- Where to report discrimination
- Public deposits: Where governments put public money
- Follow-up articles:
- May 5, 1988: Panel to probe banks' lending policies
- May 6, 1988: Black legislators seek to probe loan pattern with state bank chief
- May 6, 1988: Lomax house reassessed; taxes up $520
- May 7, 1988: State bank chief urges lending law
- May 8, 1988: Loan disclosures touch nerve among blacks, bankers
- May 10, 1988: Atlanta NAACP calls for boycott, federal probe of banks
- May 11, 1988: U.S. "looking into" banks' practices
- May 12, 1988: Black clergy consider boycott of banks over lending practices
- May 13, 1988: Banks plan to lend $65 million at low interest
- May 13, 1988: Black leaders, bankers break bread over vows of improved lending
- May 14, 1988: Blacks call banks' loan programs "step in right direction"
- May 14, 1988: Some families with very little in savings may be able to buy home
- May 15, 1988: Black boycott forestalled by loan plan
- May 17, 1988: Loan programs are drawing lot of interest
- May 19, 1988: Fair Lending panel identifies goals, begins planning for public hearing
- May 22, 1988: Banks open Saturday for low-interest loans
- May 24, 1988: Ministers, activists demand long-term action from banks
- May 25, 1988: Banking chief reverses stand calling for fair-lending laws
- May 26, 1988: Bankers take eye-opening Southside tour
- May 29, 1988: Black appraisers shut out by hiring rule of major lenders
- June 3, 1988: Detroit banks following Atlanta lead in new loans
- June 17, 1988: Reports of biased lending unfair, black bankers told
- June 19, 1988: Banks to offer $20 million in low-interest home loans
- June 26, 1988: Black clergy push plan to leave white banks
- June 28, 1988: ACORN fights merger plan by Bank South
- July 5, 1988: Blacks start move to support minority banks
- July 8, 1988: Bank South announces plan to reverse inequities on Southside
- July 12, 1988: 1st American changes service on Southside
- July 14, 1988: Bank South's $5 million promise appeases ACORN
- July 17, 1988: Federal study finds bias in lending across nation
- July 27, 1988: Atlanta among 20 worst cities in loan inequities
- July 29, 1988: Bank bill OK'd after 16 hours of debate
- September 11, 1988: Feds: Banks reject more black loans
- September 11, 1988: Federal bank regulators respond to "The Color of Money"
- October 9, 1988: Banks' business brisk in new home loans, but regulators wary
- October 9, 1988: Comparing the loan pools
- October 9, 1988: Special loans are open to all homebuyers
- October 21, 1988: Bank's plan to close branch In West End draws criticism
- October 22, 1988: Bank officials reconsider closing West End branch
- October 26, 1988: Suit accuses bank of foreclosure fraud
- October 27, 1988: Bank South calls lawsuit alleging fraud "groundless, frivolous"
- October 28, 1988: Lone banker takes heat at a hearing on loans
- October 29, 1988: Bank sticks by plan to shut branch
- December 4, 1988: Citicorp skips over real estate agents in black areas
- December 11, 1988: Mortgage workshop draws 550 potential homebuyers
- December 16, 1988: Sound of demolition is music to Cabbagetown ears
- December 22, 1988: Blacks invited into Citicorp loan program
- December 28, 1988: Black agents file suit alleging Realtors' rule biased against blacks
- December 31, 1988: Bank "adopts" neighborhood in new program for Southside
- January 22, 1989: Blacks turned down for home loans from S&Ls twice as often as whites, January 22, 1989
- January 22, 1989: Racial lending gap less in South than Midwest
- January 24, 1989: Congressman urges federal probe of racial lending gap
- February 5, 1989: Arrington's fair-lending report is late
- March 4, 1989: First Union to facilitate minority business loans
- March 17, 1989: Lending panel issues report, urges reforms
- April 25, 1989: Atlanta banks surprised to be focus of U.S. redlining probe
- July 26, 1989: Home loan program gets "mixed" review
- August 4, 1989: Home loan pool: wish come true for some blacks
- October 25, 1989: Senators give a lecture to U.S. bank regulators on bias in home loans
- Editorials, guest commentaries and letters to the editor:
- May 1, 1988: Redlining: an economic war waged on black communities
- May 4, 1988: If it's not redlining, prove it
- May 6, 1988: Redliners should do business fairly, or not at all
- May 12, 1988: Whites are being hurt too by banks' loan practices
- May 13, 1988: Who called bank boycott? Bond, singlehandedly
- May 16, 1988: Banks act swiftly to close lending gap in black areas
- May 22, 1988: Commentary: Chicago bank did it, so can Atlanta
- June 3, 1988: Boycott a redlining bank? I wouldn't dream of it
- June 6, 1988: In Atlanta and in Detroit, bankers need to reinvest
- June 10, 1988: Redlining banks may get a taste of competition
- June 19, 1988: Commentary: Charges of redlining have little foundation in fact
- July 10, 1988: Commentary: Economist's criticisms of redlining series don't hold up
- December 8, 1988: The case of the elusive mortgages
- January 26, 1989: Lending bias dashes the dream
- February 7, 1989: Why is fair-lending report still being delayed
- March 9, 1989: Let Atlanta bank on fair lending
- April 27, 1989: Redlining probe should not be limited to Atlanta
- August 12, 1989: The legacy of redlining lives on
- Letters to the editor
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Reprinted with permission from The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution. Further reproduction, retransmission or distribution of these materials without the prior written consent of The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, and any copyright holder identified in the material's copyright notice, is prohibited.
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