For most of
its history Seattle was a segregated city, as committed to white
supremacy as any location in America. People of color were excluded from most jobs, most neighborhoods and schools, and many
stores, restaurants, hotels, and other commercial establishments, even hospitals. As in other
western states, the system of severe racial discrimination in Seattle targeted
not just African Americans but also Native Americans, Asian Americans,
Pacific Islanders, people of Mexican ancestry, and also, at times, Jews.
This special section presents research that will
surprise many Pacific Northwesterners. Included are maps, photos, documents, and newspaper articles that follow the history of segregation in Seattle up through the 1960s. We also have the most extensive database of racially restrictive neighborhood covenants
and deed clauses available for any city in the country.
- Segregation maps Here is a set of detailed maps showing residential locations for Blacks, Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Jews, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Whites in Seattle from 1920-2010. Follow the link above to view more than 70 demographic maps.
- Racial Restrictive Covenants Was your neighborhood restricted? From the 1910s through the 1960s, many Seattle neighborhoods and King County suburbs practiced overt and total racial exclusion. White-only clauses and other restrictions (which sometimes excluded Jews as well as people of color) can be found today in property deeds for many many neighborhoods. We have
collected more than 400 restrictive covenants from
deeds on file in the King County Recorder's office. Follow the link above to our database and see if your neighborhood was "restricted."
- How this project helped change state law
On March 15, 2006, Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law Senate Bill 6169, which makes it easier for neighborhoods governed by homeowners associations to rid themselves of racial restrictive covenants. Learn how this project helped launch the campaign.
Until 1968, racial restrictive covenants prevented certain racial minorities from purchasing homes in specific King County neighborhoods, segregating Seattle and shaping its racial demography. This essay details the history of racial restrictive covenants in different King County neighborhoods, charting both the legal and social enforcement of racial covenants and the struggles to prohibit them.
"What do we want? Integration. When do we want it? Now!" This familiar chant from the civil rights movement reflected the desires of Seattle parents of school age children in 1966. That year, for two days, K-12 students poured out of Seattle ’s public schools and attended “freedom schools” to protest racial segregation in the Seattle school system. This essay tells the story of that boycott—from its origins to its effect on Seattle’s students and politicians.
The Seattle chapter of Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith was founded in 1913. In the 1950s it won a signal victory against the Laurelhurst Beach Club that systematically denied membership to Jewish residents of the Laurelhurst neighborhood. This essay tells the story of the twenty-year-long campaign.
What began as a fight between two white police officers and two unarmed black men in Seattle’s predominantly non-white Central District became political when an officer shot and killed one of the African Americans. African American community leaders demanded justice and set up "freedom patrols" to monitor the police.
On December 17th, 1944 U.S. Major General Henry C. Pratt announced that the federal government would officially end the exclusion order that prevented Japanese and Japanese-Americans from returning to the West Coast. The announcement set off a fiery debate over "resettlement," with some Seattle residents supporting the right of return, while others, including many public officials, tried to stop it. This essay explores both sides of the resettlement debate in Seattle.
In 1942, Florise Spearman and Dorothy West Williams became the first African Americans ever to be hired at Boeing. Their employment capped a two-year campaign led by the Northwest Enterprise, Seattle's black-owned newspaper, and a coalition of black activists. The Aeronautical Workers union fought the demand for open hiring and it was only when the federal government intervened that the company and the union gave up the white-only employment policy.
The Coon Chicken Inn was a popular roadside restaurant in Seattle from 1930-1949. The name and logo, which derived from racist caricatures of African Americans, was a galling reminder of segregation and discrimination for black Seattleites. This essay recounts the Coon Chicken Inn's history and documents little-known examples of African Americans organizing against the restaurant.
Beacon of Bigotry
Until the 1950, Coon Chicken Inn stood as a landmark of segregation on Lake City Way at 20th Ave NE. Patrons entered the restaurant through the mouth. Here are photos, menus, and detailed report Coon Chicken Inn: North Seattle's Beacon of Bigotry. Photo: Museum of History and Industry
(click to see segregation maps)
This sign from the Innis Arden subdivision
in north Shoreline dates from the 1940s. William Boeing subdivided the land in 1941 and wrote into the deeds a set of restrictive covenants. Below are numbers 14 and 15 covering "RACIAL RESTRICTIONS" and "ANIMALS." These covenants
still greet potential homeowners in the Innis Arden subdivision.
Was your neighborhood restricted?
Although no longer enforceable, they are still part of the deeds that accompany properties as they are bought and sold. Below are a few examples that show the variety of restrictions.
"No part of said property hereby conveyed shall ever be used or occupied by any Hebrew or by any person of the Ethiopian, Malay or any Asiatic Race...excepting only employees in the domestic service on the premises of persons qualified hereunder as occupants and users and residing on the premises."
"No person or persons of Asiatic, African, or Negro blood, lineage or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property or any building thereon except a domestic servant or servants who may actually and in good faith be employed by white occupants of such premises."
Lake City neighborhood
"No person of African, Japanese, Chinese, or of any other Mongolian descent shall be allowed to purchase, own or lease said real property or any part thereof."
Queen Ann neighborhood
"No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage, or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property"
Ballard/Sunset Hills neighborhood
"No part of said property hereby conveyed shall ever be used or occupied by any Hebrew or by any person of the Ethiopian, Malay or any Asiatic Race."
"No person or persons of Asiatic, African or Negro blood, lineage or extraction shall be permitted to occupy a portion of said property, or any building thereon; except, domestic servant or servants may be actually and in good faith employed by white occupants of such premises."
"No person other than one of the white and Gentile and Caucasian race shall be permitted to occupy any property in said addition or portion of a building theron except a domestic servant"
Clyde Hills neighborhood
This property shall not be resold, leased, rented or occupied except to or by persons of the Aryan race.
"None of this property shall be sold, leased or rented to any person or persons other than of Caucasian race use or occupy said premises."
White Center neighborhood
"No part of said property hereby conveyed shall ever be used or occupied by any Hebrew or by any person of the Ethiopian, Malay or any Asiatic Race.."
Click here to see if your neighborhood was restricted
Housing discrimination still rampant in 2014
Each year the Seattle Office of Civil Rights tests a selection of apartment complexes for evidence of illegal discrimination. 124 properties were tested in 2014. Two-thirds failed, showing evidence of disparate and illegal treatment of prospective renters on the basis of race, national origins, gender, or sexual orientation. "Discrimination Alleged at 13 Seattle Rental Properties" (Seattle Times, June 13, 2015)
2014 Fair Housing Testing