EWU History Team’s Racial Covenant Research in the News

Researchers with Eastern Washington University’s History Department continue to make news for their work in identifying the racially restrictive covenants that remain hidden in deeds, plat maps and other property documents created and modified in the early and mid-20th century. Check out these recent stories in the latest edition of Eastern Magazine, on Spokane Public Radio and in The Spokesman Review (paywall).

The EWU team, led by Larry Cebula ’91, an EWU professor of history and experienced archival researcher, is working in partnership with University of Washington historians. The covenants they are working to unearth and expunge served to restrict access to neighborhoods by prohibiting people of a given race or ethnicity from purchasing property.

Though ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court decades ago, the now-unenforcible restrictions continue to serve as a hurtful reminder of a racist practice that made it more difficult for people of color to live where they wanted and amass generational wealth through home equity.

As part of the project, EWU and UW have been tasked by the state legislature with notifying county clerks and individual property owners of steps they can take to have the racist language removed. The historians are also preserving the history of the covenants in a central database. Both universities received grant funds to support project-related costs.

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