Environmental Racism in Roanoke, Virginia: A Historical and Scientific Approach

Author: Ashtyn Porter
Major: Creative Writing and International Relations
Approved: Spring 2021
Status: In progress

The intent of this project is to investigate the effects of environmental racism on predominantly Black neighborhoods in Roanoke, Virginia by combining historical research on systematic racism with scientific data collected in these communities. This will be a joint effort between Eli Wooliever and myself, combining my background in international relations and history with his background in chemistry, biology, and physics. Our overall goal is to examine how environmental racism, specifically redlining, has impacted communities of color in Roanoke. Redlining is the practice of discriminatory lending or zoning practices that creates de facto segregation, acting as a precursor to further types of environmental racism. This will involve me researching the history of redlining in the United States and specifically in Roanoke, looking for what policies caused redlined areas in the city. I will then broaden the research to the international level of analysis, examining environmental racism in South Africa and India, specifically comparing instances of redlining and solutions taken by their respective governments to Roanoke, Virginia. I will then combine this research with data collected by Eli Wooliever on the environmental effects on predominantly Black communities in Roanoke, particularly focusing on Washington Park, and comparing this data to predominantly white communities. Washington Park is located in a predominantly Black neighborhood in central Roanoke that was a landfill in the 1960s until protests inspired the government to act; however, this may have had lasting health effects on the community that are still seen today. Our final goal is to collate our research with full historical and scientific analysis into a final report with suggested solutions that can be presented to the local government. We will lastly engage in a community service project with the affected communities focusing on education and improving the local environment.