US

Detroit wall dividing whites and blacks in 1940s remains, spurs art, jobs and object lessons

  • A section of a half-mile long concrete wall, six feet tall and a foot or so thick, now covered with murals, built in the 1940s is shown in Detroit, March 28, 2013. The wall was built with a simple aim: separate homes planned for middle-class whites from blacks who had already built small houses or owned land with plans to build in the neighborhood.It couldn't separate people on its own, people and policies would see to that, but it was enough to satisfy the Federal Housing Administration to approve and back loans. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    A section of a half-mile long concrete wall, six feet tall and a foot or so thick, now covered with murals, built in the 1940s is shown in Detroit, March 28, 2013. The wall was built with a simple aim: separate homes planned for middle-class whites from blacks who had already built small houses or owned land with plans to build in the neighborhood.It couldn't separate people on its own, people and policies would see to that, but it was enough to satisfy the Federal Housing Administration to approve and back loans. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)  (The Associated Press)

  • A section of a half-mile long concrete wall, six feet tall and a foot or so thick, now covered with murals, built in the 1940s is shown in Detroit, March 28, 2013. The wall was built with a simple aim: separate homes planned for middle-class whites from blacks who had already built small houses or owned land with plans to build in the neighborhood.It couldn't separate people on its own, people and policies would see to that, but it was enough to satisfy the Federal Housing Administration to approve and back loans. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    A section of a half-mile long concrete wall, six feet tall and a foot or so thick, now covered with murals, built in the 1940s is shown in Detroit, March 28, 2013. The wall was built with a simple aim: separate homes planned for middle-class whites from blacks who had already built small houses or owned land with plans to build in the neighborhood.It couldn't separate people on its own, people and policies would see to that, but it was enough to satisfy the Federal Housing Administration to approve and back loans. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)  (The Associated Press)

  • A section of a half-mile long concrete wall, six feet tall and a foot or so thick, now covered with murals, built in the 1940s is shown in Detroit, March 28, 2013. The wall was built with a simple aim: separate homes planned for middle-class whites from blacks who had already built small houses or owned land with plans to build in the neighborhood.It couldn't separate people on its own, people and policies would see to that, but it was enough to satisfy the Federal Housing Administration to approve and back loans. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

    A section of a half-mile long concrete wall, six feet tall and a foot or so thick, now covered with murals, built in the 1940s is shown in Detroit, March 28, 2013. The wall was built with a simple aim: separate homes planned for middle-class whites from blacks who had already built small houses or owned land with plans to build in the neighborhood.It couldn't separate people on its own, people and policies would see to that, but it was enough to satisfy the Federal Housing Administration to approve and back loans. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)  (The Associated Press)

Detroit has a wall that's six feet tall, a foot thick and a half-mile long — much as when it was built in the 1940s.

The aim was simple: separate homes planned for whites from blacks who had built small houses in the neighborhood. That gave the green light to the federal government to back loans for the whites.

Over time, the demographics changed but the wall remained.

Several years ago, an artist turned part of it into a massive mural with images of equality and justice. Some of those images are being incorporated into coasters by men struggling with homelessness and unemployment, using materials from abandoned homes that were razed.

The director of the organization overseeing their work says every sale prompts "great discussions" about the wall and race.