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Sunday, June 26, 2022

Nonprofit mapping bias reveals data about racial covenants in Ramsey County

Racial contracts were formally abolished with the Fair Housing Act in 1968 to restrict property ownership and possession. But a local nonprofit has researched and mapped their use in Ramsey County through legal documents.

The mapping bias identifies and maps contracts to uncover the history of structural racism. They began by mapping Hennepin County in 2016, and the result was the first comprehensive view of racial covenants for the American community.

In 2019, their work expanded to include Ramsey County as well. Partnership with the Organization of St. Catherine’s University Welcome to Dear Neighbor? – Mapping Prejudice unveiled a map of Ramsey County to the public on Wednesday evening at St. Catherine’s University.

“We really want to be clear that this is the beginning and not the end of this work,” said Kirsten Delegard, director of the Mapping Prejudice Project. “Part of what we are hoping to do through this event is… handing out the baton to the people in the community, whom we are very much looking forward to sharing stories, expertise, insights, etc. Will share the action steps not only with our team, but also with the community at large.”

The data is public, so homeowners can see if their homes ever used racial covenants. In fact, it would be news to many.

“For the most part, none of these homeowners would probably have been aware of these actions prior to[the incident],” said Michael Corey, Mapping Prejudice’s technical and data lead.


What are covenants? The following are some of the phrases within the hundreds of public housing works found in Ramsey County since the early 1900s:

“No person or persons except persons of the white race of pure blood may acquire, own, rent or occupy the whole or any part or parcel of the said premises.”

“Premises shall not be transferred, mortgaged or leased at any time to any person or persons of Chinese, Japanese, Moorish, Turkish, Negro, Mongolian or African blood or origin.”

“This property shall never be deeded or occupied to any colored person and if so done or occupied, it shall be returned to the said parties of the first part.”

1.2 million deed

To sift through the data and create a map, a software program looked at more than 1.2 million works and flagged those that contained the language of racial covenants. The volunteers then looked at each task to confirm that it contained such language.

From the data, a clear distinction can be seen between Hennepin and Ramsey counties. However, this was expected. According to Corey, the two counties differ greatly with respect to geography, population size, and the amount of first-ring suburbs.

Within Hennepin County, the covenants built a wall between the city of Minneapolis and its first-ring suburbs, to keep white people apart. On the other hand, Ramsey County covenants appear in smaller areas with higher concentrations.

The Como Park area near the Minnesota State Fairgrounds has a high number. Large numbers are also found near St. Catherine’s compound.

“We think it partly has nothing to do with the fact that this is when this part of the city is developing,” Corey said. “These territories[were]lessees in the 1920s when covenants[were]at their peak.”

A large number of annexes were also found on the banks of various lakes within the county. The covenants would have been seen as an incentive for whites to settle on the banks of the lakes.

gap in data

The Ramsey County covenants form a kind of patchwork pattern in many areas, but Corey believes this is due to the data set not being complete. Many of the works were not readable, so it is unclear whether they contained contracts. Mapping Prejudice knows that there are gaps in the data, and they want to map as broadly as possible.

Looking at mapping Prejudice’s data in conjunction with demographic data from this time period, economics professor Christine West realized that the share of US Census count districts that were composed entirely of whites increased by 10 to 15 percent each decade. increased.

“Isolation was bad and got worse,” West said. “And it was policies like those covenants that served to claim white spaces.”

And with segregation, the difference in socioeconomic status also changed.

“The results for upward mobility actually show an increase in upward mobility for white children, but not for black children and therefore a wide opportunity gap,” West said. “We see that covenants are related to opportunity gaps that are linked to neighborhoods.”

Covenant language can still be found on property titles

On Tuesday, the Ramsey County Board of Commissioners voted to join the Just Deeds Coalition in an effort to highlight the importance of discharging and issuing historic racial covenants on property records.

Although these covenants are not enforced, they are sometimes kept. Just Deeds provides free legal and title services to help property owners find racial contracts and free them from their property titles. The board of commissioners also approved action to exempt residents from paying a filing fee to discharge a restrictive covenant.

Mapping this data will allow Ramsey County to uncover its history of structural racism and better understand its demographics. Homeowners will be able to use the interactive map to see how their home fits into history.

Mapping Prejudice believes that local communities within the county will help clarify the configuration of the data.

There are many organizations across the country that are doing the same thing as Mapping Prejudice; However, Mapping Prejudice has created tools that streamline the process if tasks are already digitized, and they hope to share these tools with other organizations.

Mapping Prejudice already has operations in Anoka and Washington counties, and they hope to expand to the entire metro area in the future.

World Nation News Desk
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