The present racial inequities in homeownership and entrepreneurship in Memphis are inextricable from the city’s history. From its founding as the largest inland slave and cotton market and subsequent rapid growth during the Great Migration, through its later deindustrialization, transition to a low-wage economy, and profound White flight, Memphis has formed and reformed its racial hierarchy across generations through acts of violence, policy, and community disinvestment. Today, Memphis’ schools are more segregated than they were in the 1960s, the city has one of the highest poverty rates in the country and residential segregation patterns follow the blueprint set out in 1930s redlining maps.
At the same time, the city has tremendous opportunities and assets to bring to bear in rectifying these injustices and creating a more inclusive, equitable, and vibrant city, including the growing explicit focus on racial equity among city and national leaders, a strong and committed network of nonprofits and philanthropy, a deep cultural heritage, and a wellspring of passionate and talented BIPOC residents. While this research focused on the opportunities to increase BIPOC homeownership and entrepreneurship as key pathways for building multigenerational wealth, we believe action in these areas must be undertaken in concert with advancing equity in other areas crucial to wellbeing and mobility, such as health, education, rental markets, workforce development and policy, and transportation.