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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project


The language of racial exclusion and 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 segregation and exclusion were allowed, indeed promoted, by local governments and state authorities.

The Racial Restrictive Covenants Project involves teams of researchers at the University of Washington and Eastern Washington University. Authorized by the Washington legislature under HB 1335 (May 2021), this project is charged with identifying and mapping neighborhoods marked by racist deed provisions and restrictive covenants. With more than 60,000 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 60,000 restricted properties in hundreds of neighborhoods across the state. But our research is far from complete. We need help. More than 1,000 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 results for eight Puget Sound counties: King, Pierce, Snohomish, Thurston, Kitsap, Island, San Juan, 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 1,000 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 demonstrate that home ownership in Washington has followed a disturbing pattern in recent decades. While two-thirds of White families are able to own homes, most Black and Latino families do not. And for Black households the trend has gotten worse. In 1970, 50% of Black families owned homes. Now it is only 34%. Explore

"It is the intent of the legislature that the owner, occupant, or tenant or homeowners' association board of the property which is subject to an unlawful deed restriction or covenant pursuant to RCW 49.60.224 is entitled to have discriminatory covenants and restrictions that are contrary to public policy struck from their chain of title." Learn about how to file modification forms. Explore

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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