This interactive visualization shows the spread of racially-restrictive deeds across Minneapolis during the first half of the twentieth century.
The Mapping Prejudice Project is working to identify and map racial restrictions buried in historic Minneapolis property deeds. These restrictions, known as racial covenants or racially-restrictive deeds, were used in most American cities before 1968 to prevent people who were not white from buying or occupying property. Yet no one has ever shown how much of the urban landscape was saddled with these restrictions. We are making the first-ever comprehensive map of racial covenants for an American city.
Our visualization will transform our collective understanding of race and real estate. Over the course of the twentieth century, discriminatory deeds reshaped Minneapolis in ways that we need to confront as a community.
Racial covenants were invisible to the casual observer. In this way, they were different from the whites-only drinking fountains and waiting rooms of the Jim Crow south. Yet these real estate contracts were powerful tools for segregationists. Real estate developers and public officials used private property transactions to build a hidden system of American apartheid during the twentieth century.
Inspired by the idea that we cannot address the inequities of the present without an understanding of the past, Mapping Prejudice was created to make this structural racism visible. Our interdisciplinary team of community activists, students and scholars from Augsburg University and the University of Minnesota is working to identify and map the property contracts that rendered many neighborhoods in Minneapolis racially exclusive.
Minneapolis was not always segregated. The maps below, created from raw census data compiled by the Minnesota Population Center, show how covenants helped remake the racial landscape of the city. As racially-restrictive deeds spread, African Americans were pushed into small and increasingly circumscribed neighborhoods. Even as the number of black residents continued to climb, ever-larger swaths of the city became entirely white.
These maps show how covenants changed neighborhoods. Nascent black communities in Northeast Minneapolis and around Lake Harriet were completely eradicated by 1940. By that year, black residents had been pushed out of every census enumeration district on the east side of the Mississippi River.
Today, we are living with the legacies of these policies. Racial covenants dovetailed with redlining and predatory lending practices to depress homeownership rates for African Americans. And today, Minneapolis has the lowest African-American homeownership rate in the county.
Our contemporary disparities have grown out of these historic practices. Our map will help our community grapple with the reality of structural racism. But we need your help.