updated 5/17/2006 4:00:41 PM ET 2006-05-17T20:00:41

A portion of a 6-foot-high concrete wall that once divided black and white neighborhoods in the rigidly segregated city a half century ago is getting a mural.

The nonprofit Motor City Blight Busters is working with the neighborhood to paint a mural on a 310-foot stretch of the Birwood Wall, which runs for half a mile through northwest Detroit.

The group began the effort with a park cleanup two weeks ago that drew about 100 volunteers. Residents also painted parts of the mural.

Artist Chazz Miller expects to unveil the finished piece this month, the Detroit Free Press reported Wednesday.

The wall was built in the early 1940s when a developer wanted to build homes for middle-class whites but found that the U.S. government would not back mortgages because too many blacks lived in the neighborhood, said Blight Busters founder John George.

The developer proposed putting up a wall to show that whites and blacks would not be living together, George said. It worked, and federal officials approved the loans.

Neighborhoods on both sides of the wall now are predominantly black.

“It’s important to take something built to divide people and just flip the script and see if we can bring people together,” George told columnist Neal Rubin of The Detroit News.

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