This research is showing what communities of color have known for decades. Structural barriers stopped many people who were not white from buying property and building wealth for most of the last century.
In Minneapolis, these restrictions served as powerful obstacles for people of color seeking safe and affordable housing. They also limited access to community resources like parks and schools. Racial covenants dovetailed with redlining and predatory lending practices to depress homeownership rates for African Americans. Contemporary white residents of Minneapolis like to think their city never had formal segregation. But racial covenants did the work of Jim Crow in northern cities like Minneapolis.
This history has been willfully forgotten. So we created Mapping Prejudice to shed new light on these historic practices. We cannot address the inequities of the present without an understanding of the past.
Our work is part of a broader reckoning with the legacies of racist housing policies. Mapping Prejudice was inspired by groundbreaking work in Seattle and Virginia that show how digital tools can illuminate structural racism and transform our understanding of the past.
Segregated Seattle was the brainchild of the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project at the University of Washington, which assembled a database of racial covenants that has become an important resource for historians, legal researchers and activists trying to understand how ideas about race shaped real estate law and housing policy.
Mapping Inequality was conceived by the University of Richmond's Digital Lab, which digitized New Deal redlining maps to illuminate how federal policy makers "used racial criteria to categorize lending and insurance risks." Historians have long understood the importance of redlining. Yet by using digital mapping software to organize, analyze and display historic data about this practice, this project retold the story in way that made it accessible for a popular audience.
Mapping Prejudice builds on this existing work. But our efforts in Minneapolis are made especially urgent by the city's contemporary racial disparities, which are some of the largest in the nation. Our initial research shows that covenants created demographic patterns that remain in place in Minneapolis today. Residential segregation reinforces other disparities in employment, education and health care. Most notable is the gap in homeownership rates. While 78 percent of white families own homes in the Twin Cities, only 25 percent of African-American families have title to their dwelling.
Our initial analysis also draws new attention to the way that race has shaped public space in the city. Our early maps show that some of the city's most spectacular parks were ringed by residential districts that barred people of color from taking up residence. The result was an invisible racial cordon around the city's renowned Grand Rounds, which serves as the city's urban commons.
Once completed, our database and map will be a powerful community resource that should serve as a foundation for productive community conversations and fact-based policy making.
Mapping Prejudice is based in the Borchert Map Library at the University of Minnesota. In 2016, the founding members of the project team joined forces to create the first-ever comprehensive visualization of racial covenants for an American city.
Kirsten Delegard is one of the co-founders of Mapping Prejudice and has a faculty affiliation with the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota.
A third generation Minneapolitan, Delegard has written extensively about the history of her hometown on the Historyapolis website. She has been a Legacy Research fellow at the Gale Library at the Minnesota Historical Society and has authored columns for the Southwest Journal as well as a short history of the battle over pornography in Minneapolis that was published in U.S. Women’s History: Untangling the Threads of Sisterhood.
Delegard holds a Ph.D. in history from Duke University and spent her graduate school years exploring American social movements, comparative women’s history and the history of women and politics in the United States. In 2012, the University of Pennsylvania Press published her book, Battling Miss Bolsheviki: The Origins of Female Conservatism in the United States. This book revisits the 1920s to chart the growth of a conservative women’s movement that would reshape the parameters of female political activism for the remainder of the twentieth century. Delegard was also the co-editor, with Nancy A. Hewitt, for the two volume textbook Women, Families and Communities: Readings in American History (Longman Publishing, 2008). She was also part of the team behind Mary Wingerd’s North Country: The Making of Minnesota (University of Minnesota Press, 2010). Delegard was the image curator for that volume, writing a series of interpretive essays that explained the visuals.
In her spare time, Delegard thinks about writing a new history of Minneapolis that she has tentatively titled City of Light and Darkness: The Making of a Progressive Metropolis in Minneapolis.
Co-Director and Project Manager
Ryan Mattke is one of the co-founders of Mapping Prejudice. He is the Map & Geospatial Information Librarian and Head of the John R. Borchert Map Library at the University of Minnesota, as well as Adjunct Faculty in the Masters of Geographic Information Science program. Born and raised in Green Bay, WI, Mattke has lived in Minneapolis for nearly 20 years and now considers himself a Minneapolitan and a Minnesotan.
Mattke holds a B.A. in English (Creative Writing) and a Masters of Geographic Information Science, both from the University of Minnesota. His areas of research interest include geospatial data access and discovery, increased access to library collections, and the history of Geographic Information Systems in Minnesota, as indicated by his published scholarship.
When he is not managing projects, poring over maps, or visualizing data he can be found reading, writing, paddling, hiking, climbing, gardening, or building canoes.
Digital and Geospatial Director
Kevin Ehrman-Solberg is one of the co-founders of the Mapping Prejudice Project and is a graduate student in the Department of Geography, Environment and Society at the University of Minnesota.
Ehrman-Solberg recently completed his Master of Geographic Information at the University of Minnesota. He masterminds the work of building the database necessary for the Mapping Prejudice maps, massaging the data that volunteers create into points that can be mapped digitally. He has also done the spatial analysis for the project, showing how covenants changed neighborhood demographics and how they laid the groundwork for later redlining and devastating urban renewal projects.
Born and raised in the Twin Cities, Ehman-Solberg began researching the history of pornography theaters in Minneapolis as an undergraduate student at Augsburg University. It was this work that brought him to the Historyapolis Project, where he met Kirsten Delegard and began creating visualizations and narratives about Minneapolis history. An active proponent of the “digital humanities,” Ehman-Solberg interrogates the intersection of space and historical narrative. His work on pornographic bookstores in Minneapolis was published in the Middle West Review, where he explores the connections between pornography, gay sexual liberation, feminism, and police power. For more on Ehman-Solberg’s research interests, listen to his interview with the Midwestern History Association, or visit his website.
Property Records Specialist
Penny Petersen is one of the co-founders of the Mapping Prejudice Project and is a leading expert on historic property records in Minnesota.
After retiring as a researcher for a Minneapolis-based historical consultant in 2015, Petersen spent countless hours in the Hennepin County Recorder’s Office identifying thousands of deeds encumbered by racial restrictions. This work only intensified after Mapping Prejudice launched its Zooniverse platform for crowd-sourcing deed transcription. Having transcribed more than fifteen thousand property records online, Petersen now leads training sessions for Mapping Prejudice volunteers.
Petersen embraced this effort after Kirsten Delegard requested instruction on finding racially-restricted property deeds in Minneapolis. Delegard was so befuddled by the byzantine organization of property records that Petersen decided it would be easier to do this work herself. She started with the Homewood neighborhood, where activists had long bemoaned the discriminatory barriers erected by restrictive covenants. When her search proved fruitless, she realized the importance of digging into the archive to uncover where and when racial restrictions were placed on property holdings in Minneapolis.
Petersen has a long-standing interest in the history of the Minneapolis central riverfront. Her first book, Hiding in Plain Sight: Minneapolis’ First Neighborhood, describes the growth of the area around St. Anthony Falls. She also used property records to reconstruct the forgotten world of nineteenth century red-light districts in Minneapolis. She told the story of the powerful women who ran these Mill City establishments in Minneapolis Madams: The Lost History of Prostitution on the Riverfront, which is available from the University of Minnesota Press. A short snippet from this larger work was published on Historyapolis in 2014.
Marguerite Mills earned her undergraduate degree in Developmental Psychology from the University of Minnesota. She is interested in critical examination of the intersection of human development, society, and place using GIS. She intends to begin the MGIS program in spring 2019.
Social Media Intern
Denise Pike is lifetime Twin Cities local and a student in the Master of Heritage Studies and Public History program at the University of Minnesota. Denise developed an interest in data analysis and GIS during her undergraduate education in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota. She wants to use the digital humanities to address the inequities that exist in the Twin Cities.