Minnesota’s first racially restrictive deed appeared in in Minneapolis 1910, when Henry and Leonora Scott sold a property on 35th Avenue South to Nels Anderson. The deed contained this provision: “The premises shall not at any time be conveyed, mortgaged or leased to any person or persons of Chinese, Japanese, Moorish, Turkish, Negro, Mongolian or African blood or descent.”
The 1968 federal Fair Housing Act made such covenants illegal. But that doesn’t mean their effects aren’t still being felt. Segregated communities and lopsided rates of home ownership between races are still very much a reality.
The newly created Just Deeds coalition is looking to change that. Just Deeds members provide free legal and title services aimed at helping property owners find discriminatory covenants and discharge them from their property titles. Just Deeds also provides education to help communities acknowledge this racist history. So far, the coalition has discharged 101 biased covenants.
“One main thrust of the project is the work of mapping discriminatory covenants in Hennepin County,” said Jared Shepherd, an attorney with Campbell Knutson in Eagan. “Groups that had been part of creating these covenants — such as real estate businesses — wanted to help get rid of them.”
Eleven cities are participating in the effort, including several Minneapolis suburbs and Rochester. The coalition’s founding members include Edina Realty Title, Minneapolis Area Realtors, Mapping Prejudice, the Minnesota Association of City Attorneys and the city of Golden Valley.
“Golden Valley was the first place to implement the project,” said Shepherd.
The Just Deeds website (justdeeds.org) contains ways for a number of people to get involved, including homeowners, buyers, sellers, attorneys, government officials and real estate professionals.
“The idea is to acknowledge that it happened, and to educate our communities about this practice as a way to build equitable communities,” said Shepherd.
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