3335 W St Germain St.
Suite 108
St. Cloud, MN 56301

(320) 656-8890

The Impact of Racial Covenants

Feb 21, 2024

Have you ever noticed the racial makeup of your neighborhood?  

According to Urban.org, “a typical white person lives in a neighborhood that is 75 percent white and only 8 percent African American, whereas a typical African American lives in a neighborhood that is only 35 percent white and 45 percent African American.” In neighborhoods with higher poverty rates, Black households are overrepresented. Why is this? 

It’s not due to income or personal preference. Even middle-income Black families are more likely to live in neighborhoods with poor access to important resources like grocery stores, good schools, and transportation. 

The answer is racial covenants and redlining. As Margery Austin Turner and Solomon Greene explain in their article on Urban.org, the separate and unequal neighborhoods in the US are the result of careful plans and policies designed to exclude Black people and other people of color from well-resourced neighborhoods. Racial covenants began in the early 20th century, and, according to Mapping Prejudice, “are clauses that were inserted into property deeds to prevent people who were not White from buying or occupying land.” 

Excerpt of racial covenant: "That said land or buildings thereon shall never be rented, leased or sold, transferred or conveyed to, nor shall same be occupied exclusively by person or persons other than of the Caucasian Race."

An example of a racial covenant. Credit: Mapping Prejudice 

 

Mapping Prejudice, an organization based at the University of Minnesota Libraries, has been working since 2016 to uncover these covenants across the Twin Cities area. With the help of over 8,000 volunteers, they’ve discovered 42,000 covenants so far across the Twin Cities and have collaborated with other organizations looking for racial covenants across Minnesota. 

Central Minnesota was not immune to these covenants. Between 1920 to the 1960s, property deeds were used to legally segregate neighborhoods. The Great River Covenants Project, in partnership with Mapping Prejudice, has begun to uncover the history of racial covenants in Central Minnesota.  

 

Although the Fair Housing Act of 1968 outlawed segregation and the enforcing of racial covenants, they still appear in property deeds across Minnesota and their legacy lives on. Neighborhoods with racial covenants, which were primarily white, were often prioritized over neighborhoods where Black people lived and could own homes. White neighborhoods had higher property values and increased access to amenities like parks, grocery stores, and quality education. Today, properties in historically restricted neighborhoods are worth 15% more than identical properties in non-restricted neighborhoods. This same trend works in reverse in traditionally Black neighborhoods, where properties are worth significantly less than they should be. 

In addition, racial covenants severely restricted Black households’ access to homeownership. Today, there is a significant homeownership gap between white and Black households. In St. Cloud, 71.5% of white households own their homes compared to 12.6% of Black households, which is the 9th lowest rate across all metros in the U.S. The gap of 58.9% is the 8th highest among all metros. 

As a consequence of this historic homeownership gap, there is also a significant wealth difference between white and Black Americans. According to Mapping Prejudice, on average, white Americans have 10x the amount of wealth as Black Americans. 

 

If you’d like to learn more, check out the resources below: 

Twin Cities PBS’ “Jim Crow of the North”https://youtu.be/XWQfDbbQv9E?si=cx20K9DxS8M-KlV8

Mapping Prejudice – https://mappingprejudice.umn.edu/ 

Great River Covenants Project – https://greatrivercovenants.org/

 

Sources:  

“The Black Homeownership Gap in St. Cloud” – https://stacker.com/minnesota/st-cloud/black-homeownership-gap-st-cloud 

“Causes and Consequences of Separate and Unequal Neighborhoods” – https://www.urban.org/racial-equity-analytics-lab/structural-racism-explainer-collection/causes-and-consequences-separate-and-unequal-neighborhoods#:~:text=Racially%20restrictive%20covenants%20legally%20prohibited,color%20until%20the%20late%201940s. 

“What is a Covenant?” – https://mappingprejudice.umn.edu/racial-covenants/what-is-a-covenant 

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(320) 656-8890

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