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Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Racial Restrictive Covenants - Puget Sound

These preliminary maps show some of the neighborhoods where racial restrictive covenants were added to property records in the first half of the 20th century. Nearly 50,000 properties were restricted in seven Puget Sound counties (more soon). Zoom and pan for a closer look. Click on any parcel to see the restriction. The gray scale coloring reflects the current racial demography of census tracts and block areas as reported in the 2020 census. The color white means the population is more than 65% nonHispanic White. (Note: the map will take several seconds to load).


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>These are preliminary findings and subject to revision. We are still adding and confirming data. We are grateful to the King County Archives and the County Auditors of Pierce, Thurston, Snohomish, and Whatcom counties for making it possible for us to search digital property records using a computer program written by Nicholas Boren with help from Michael Corey at Mapping Prejudice. Suspected restrictions were confirmed by Sophia Dowling, Jazzlynn Woods, Erin Miller, and Samantha Cutts who managed data entry and geocoding. Maps were designed and produced by Alvin Bui.

On the map above, do not assume that areas without marks were not restricted. Deed restrictions were only one of the mechanisms of segregation. Neighborhoods without covenants often practiced racial exclusion by other means.

There is a logic to the geography. Areas platted (subdivided) between 1925 and 1948 were most likely to be restricted. Realtors and developers wrote racial exclusions into the initial documents subdividing a future neighborhood. All properties in the subdivision were thus legally restricted. It was more complicated to restrict older areas. Neighborhood associations sometimes organized petition drives and convinced white homeowners to add racial restriction clauses to their properties.

Look at the language of restriction in these deeds. Some specify that neighborhoods are reserved for "Whites," while others enumerate the prohibited racial groups. And the wording is curious. In the terminology of the 1920s-1940s "Hebrews" meant Jews; "Ethiopians" meant African ancestry; "Malays" meant Filipinos; "Mongolians" meant all East Asians; "Hindus" meant all south Asians.