Racial Restrictive Covenants Project – EWU

For much of the 20th century in the United States, a system of white supremacy was partly maintained by discriminatory housing policies. In Washington State, thousands of residential properties included legal covenants barring certain racial minorities from owning the property. Though these racist property restrictions were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1948 and have been unenforceable since, they remain on the books in many Washington communities. 

In 2022, Washington State passed SHB 1335, Concerning review and property owner notification of recorded documents with unlawful racial restrictions, which assigned Eastern Washington University and the University of Washington with the task of finding all of the racially restrictive property covenants in the state and informing owners about how to remove them. EWU is proud to be involved in correcting this historic wrong.

Eastern Washington University is locating the racially restrictive property covenants in the 20 counties of eastern Washington. It is a big job, involving everything from using optical character recognition of digitized files to slowly turning the pages of huge bound volumes of deed books. Our team includes historians, records experts, and student researchers. Working closely with the University of Washington team, we are excavating a long-buried past. Do you have questions or would you like to join us? Contact EWU Project Director Dr. Tara Kelly at (509) 795-1955