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Stories of Bad Deeds

We have all witnessed bad deeds. But this blog will be focused on the bad deeds in Hennepin County, specifically the property deeds that were saddled with racial restrictions. These deeds made it illegal for people who were not white to live in or occupy the property attached to these documents.


July 6, 2018

Welcome to our new blog.

The Mapping Prejudice Project was created to find and map bad deeds. That's because these deeds force us to re-think what we believe about the past in Minneapolis and its suburbs.

The map we are building--with the help of community volunteers--tells a story. It shows how Minneapolis was transformed in the early twentieth century. A city where people of all races lived as neighbors was remade into a segregated metropolis.

Covenants determined not only where people of different races could live but also who could acquire property and amass wealth. These historic inequalities underpin our contemporary racial disparities.

It demands that we grapple with the truth. Racial segregation is not a natural phenomenon. People have not always chosen to live among "their own kind." Discriminatory housing policies deliberately created racial segregation. And this segregation--and the discriminatory practices it facilitated--destroyed billions of dollars of property values for people who were not white.

We want this map to prompt other stories. We want to know more about the people who imagined these bad deeds. We want to understand why people embraced these bad deeds. And we want to understand how lives were changed by these bad deeds. Who wrote the deeds? Who fought the deeds? And what were the long term consequences of these deeds? These stories will help us understand the full human import of these dry legal documents.

You will hear a lot of different voices in this space. Like everything at the Mapping Prejudice Project, this will be a collaborative effort that is centered on community. Many of you have lived this history, in so many ways. We want to hear from you. What stories do we need to know? What stories do we need to tell?

We want to use this space to showcase insights from everyone on our team. Many of these dispatches will be written by Kirsten Delegard, one of the co-founders of Mapping Prejudice and the Project Director. But you will also benefit from the wisdom of our masterful property researcher, Penny Petersen. And you will get the insights of Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, our Geospatial Director, who is starting a Ph.D. program at the University of Minnesota this year. You will see posts by our interns. And we might even coax Ryan Mattke, our poet and canoe-builder turned project manager and librarian, to step into the conversation.

Our team is based at the Borchert Map Library at the University of Minnesota. But we first came together through the Historyapolis Project. As Historyapolis matured, it came to focus on what seemed to be a glaring contradiction. In many quarters, Minneapolis is heralded as a model metropolis. The city is admired for its parks, its arts, its welcoming climate for sexual diversity, its volunteerism and its robust economy. But Minneapolis also has some of the highest racial disparities in the country.

This paradox catalyzed the Mapping Prejudice Project, which was launched in 2016. So many of our contemporary disparities can be traced to housing inequities. But where did those inequities come from?

With your help, that’s what the Mapping Prejudice Project is working to show.

Photo by: Carolyn Szczepanski, Minnesota Housing Partnership