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PSLA Students Learn About Syracuse History by Examining 1919 City Map

About 50 students from PSLA at Fowler recently participated in a Zoom call with CNY Central anchor Matt Mulcahy in which they examined a recently discovered map of Syracuse, dated 1919.
Mr. Mulcahy’s investigative efforts uncovered the map, which depicts how neighborhoods were once color-coded and ‘redlined’ based on race and ethnicity, with detrimental effects lasting even to this day. Geospatial Technology instructor Jessica Teifke invited her Geospatial students, as well as any PSLA students and staff who were interested, to join Mr. Mulcahy’s discussion.
“The Map, as Mr. Mulcahy calls it, is so impactful in how it displays the redlining, or marginalization, of black and other ethnic communities, in Syracuse back in 1919,” Ms. Teifke said. “But, it really lends itself to discussing so many larger issues affecting our local community today. Discriminatory, government-led housing policies not only limited the mobility of black people, but drove up the accumulation of wealth in non-black neighborhoods and helped promote the modern wealth gap. It has led to segregation in our neighborhoods, and in turn, our schools.”
Ms. Teifke said she wanted her Geospatial students to be able to think critically about the long-term effects of the map: How does a simple map help convey a complex issue spanning over 100 years? Is this an example of institutional racism? Is informal segregation still happening in our community today? How can we do better in the future?
“These are the things I’m interested in hearing about from their perspectives,” Ms. Teifke explained. “There is much interest in social justice issues that directly affect them, and I feel it’s necessary to not only present the data, but to give them the space and platform to have meaningful discussion.” 
Ultimately, students from the RPAS and Forensic Science programs, Active Citizenship and history classes and more joined the discussion, learning more about their city’s history and making connections to the world they live in today.
Geospatial student Alijah Giscombe said the discussion made her course studies seem even more relevant.
“The map was definitely different,” Alijah said. “It was not something that I had expected. I wasn’t aware of how in depth the whole situation was regarding segregation within Syracuse. To think that central New York was such a segregated place back then is quite mind boggling, although it does come in to play when speaking about and viewing the wide range of differences between our school district and others. I do view this as institutionalized racism, and it’s something that’s been happening for quite a while. Growing up, I’ve always seen it. So for it to be acknowledged, I hope that means that they are working toward inclusion and integration and that eventually it won’t be as big as a problem.”
Thank you to Matt Mulcahy for leading such a relevant discussion, and to Ms. Teifke for making this opportunity accessible to PSLA students! If you would like to learn more about ‘The Map,’ click here to view a story on CNY Central.
Anthony Q. Davis, Superintendent
725 Harrison Street
Syracuse, NY 13210
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