The language of segregation haunts the cities and suburbs of Washington State. Racist restrictions, although now void, remain in the property records of hundreds of neighborhoods, a toxic residue from the decades when racial segregation and exclusion was allowed, indeed promoted, by local governments throughout the state.
The Racial Restrictive Covenants Project involves teams of researchers at the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University. Authorized by the state legislature under HB 1335 (May 2021), this project is charged with identifying and mapping neighborhoods marked by racist deed provisions and restrictive covenants. With 50,000 restricted properties identified so far, the project provided the research for the newly enacted Covenant Homeownership Account Act that will compensate victims of restrictive covenants.
To-date we have identified more than 50,000 restricted properties in hundreds of neighborhoods across the state. But our research is far from complete. We need help. More than 800 volunteers have been helping us confirm and record restrictions that our search methods are uncovering. Please see the Read the deeds: volunteers page and join us.
Our research is progressing. We have preliminary results for King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, and Whatcom counties. Follow this link to see maps and data for those counties. We will report further results in the months ahead.
More than 800 volunteers are helping by reading deeds. We have employed optical character recognition (OCR) to identify thousands of property deeds containing racial language. But computers can only do some of the work. Volunteers examine the text flagged by the computer and answer a series of questions that will allow us to list and map the restrictions.
Racial restrictive covenants became a tool to enforce segregation in cities and towns in Washington and across the United States in the early and middle 20th century. In this essay we explain the history of these property restrictions and examine their lasting impact.
On April 23, 2023 the Washington legislature passed the Covenants Homeownership Account Act (HB 1474) that will provide compensation for victims of the racial restrictive covenants. The law was based on research conducted by this project. Moreover it is the fourth law inspired by our data on racial restrictive covenants since the project started at the University of Washington almost twenty years ago.
These county-by-county reports include maps and the record of restrictions along with information about the history of race and segregation for the county. Check the list to see what we have found in your county.
Meet the research teams for the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University and learn about how the project started and about the many volunteers who have helped.
Here are news articles and other media about the Racial Restrictive Covenants Project including radio and television interviews and YouTube videos of presentations by our team.
Volunteers are assisting by reading deeds and recording the restrictions. We use optical character recognition (OCR) to identify property records containing racial language, but computers can only do some of the work. Please volunteer to examine the text flagged by the computer and answer a series of questions. Each document takes no more than a few minutes to examine. Teachers: this can be an exciting class project. More
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