Map Monday: Minneapolis Racial Covenants in 1951

Historyapolis‘ amazing work on the history of racism and real estate in the Twin Cities continues with this map showing racial covenants in Minneapolis over time.

Here’s the cumulative total (so far!) from 1951.



Racial covenants were part of a suite of racist practices and policies that profoundly shaped Northern cities in the 20th century. Again via Historyapolis, here’s an example of what one looked like in Minneapolis:


While racial covenants were more ubiquitous in cities like Chicago and Los Angeles, where as much as 80% of the property had restrictive covenants banning ownership by African-Americans, in Minneapolis these covenants were mostly found in areas on the edges of white and diverse neighborhoods. (For example, compare this above map to the HOLC “redlining” map; for the most part, covenants line up with areas near neighborhoods on the border between zone classifications.)

The heyday of racial covenants was between the mid-1920s and the mid 1940s, in between two Supreme Court decisions that first allowed and then disallowed their use in 1948 in the Shelly v. Kramer decision that dealt with a black family trying to buy a house in St. Louis, Missouri.  Before that that point, it was perfectly normal in many neighborhoods and cities to have blanket racial deed restrictions on who could buy your house. After that point, when explicit racial restrictions became “unenforceable“, real estate practices became much more implicit, as white neighbors and realtors resorted to steering, zoning, or outright violence to enforce invisible color lines in Northern cities.

It wasn’t until the Fair Housing Act of 1968 that cities, realtors, and landlords were forced to begin ending discriminatory rental and ownership practices. Yet even today, these restrictive covenants are still “on the books” in some ways.

PS. There’s an interesting half-hour public service film from 1957 called All The Way Home about a white family deciding to sell their house to a black family in an all-white neighborhood and dealing with pushback and racism from their neighbors.

Here you go!

3 thoughts on “Map Monday: Minneapolis Racial Covenants in 1951

  1. Peter Bajurny

    What I found interesting was that covenants from around the 40s (or at least those in SW that are on this map from the 40s) stopped trying to list all the bad races and just literally said only whites. What’s more interesting is that they made exclusions for live in domestic staff, an exclusion that lives on in the occupancy regulations of the Minneapolis zoning code!

  2. Adam MillerAdam Miller

    So, just to put on my first year of law school cap, that there covenant sure looks to me like it would violate the rule against perpetuities and thus be void…

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