Racial Covenants and Racial Movement: The Migration of African American Communities in the Twin Cities, 1910-40.

Catherine A. Fitch, University of Minnesota
Evan Roberts, University of Minnesota

Racially restrictive covenants were introduced into American cities in the early twentieth century, as a publicly sanctioned private response to the Supreme Court's striking down of racially restrictive zoning laws. Racial covenants restricted, for eternity, the transfer of property to African Americans and other racial minorities. Despite widespread knowledge of their existence in cities around the country, there has until recently been no measurement of the extent of covenants. In Minneapolis an interdisciplinary team of researchers on the Mapping Prejudice project has begun to map the location of properties with racial covenants, and their spread across time and space within the city. Initial findings suggest a rush of covenants in the 1910s and 1920s. At the aggregate level, the spatial extent of Minneapolis' African American community shrank from widespread dispersion across the city to increasingly concentrated and segregated. Taking off from these findings, we trace the migration of Minneapolis' African American household heads from the 1910 forward to 1940 to ask how individuals moved in response to the introduction of covenants. We examine migration across three decades, from 1910-20, 1920-30, and 1930-40. In order to contextualize our findings, we present comparative results for white men in Minneapolis, and black and white men in the neighboring city of Saint Paul, over the same time period. Our results show considerable movement out of Minneapolis, considerable movement within the city for those men who remained in Minneapolis, and relatively slow transitions into home-ownership in a population that was, on average, middle-aged.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 250. Race, Cities, and Citizenship