About The Mapping Mankato Project Proposal

This project is intended to identify the history of structural racism in the city of Mankato based on the existence of racially restrictive covenants in real estate deeds. The project team with help from students and community volunteers will read and analyze deeds, identify and document restrictive covenants, and map where those covenants exist in the city. We will use this map to identify connections between past discrimination and current patterns in housing and access in Mankato and to help interested property owners discharge racial covenants under Minnesota law. The purpose of this project is to educate and spread awareness of one method of legal and customary segregation in smaller northern communities like Mankato and to empower community members to become engaged in issues surrounding systemic racism.


We hope this project will help our community achieve the following goals.

  1. Explore the history of structural racism and how this history affects present-day Mankato.
  2. Examine the history, geography, and politics of housing in Mankato.
  3. Position Mankato’s experience with racial discrimination within the broader context of the state and
  4. Educate community members on the existence of racial discrimination in the northern states.
  5. Empower community members to discharge restrictive covenants on their property.
Historical background

From the early twentieth century to the late 1960s, white Americans had a variety of legal tools at their disposal to segregate residential neighborhoods by race. Two common methods of housing discrimination included redlining and restrictive covenants. Redlining made use of color-coded maps to determine financing decisions. The maps, created by a federal New Deal agency, used the colors green, blue, yellow, and red to rate various parts of a city. The highest rating of green signaled the properties in that neighborhood represented a good credit risk and enabled those buying homes within the area to borrow money. The lowest rating of red identified a community as a poor risk where financing would not be available. The determinative factor between a green and red community was the race of its residents. White residents increased the likelihood an area would be rated green; whereas, Black neighbors generally indicated a red grade. This is one way the federal government and housing industry contributed to racialsegregation across the nation (1).

Another method of housing discrimination involved the use of restrictive covenants, also called racial covenants or racially restrictive covenants. These were clauses within real estate deeds, private agreements between a buyer and seller of a property, that prohibited selling the property to anyone considered to be nonwhite. The earliest racial covenants in the Minneapolis area predate World War I, but their use continued with active government support until 1948 when the Supreme Court ruled that courts could not enforce these clauses. And, yet, private parties could still put them in deeds until 1953 in Minnesota and 1968 in the United States when such clauses were outlawed (2). These two tools worked together to create racial exclusivity in homes and access to resources. The existence of restrictive covenants in a neighborhood encouraged a green rating in redlining maps. Many of these homes were built in the suburbs with better-funded schools and other public and private amenities. Meanwhile, African Americans often remained in declining urban areas, relegated to a rental market or federal housing projects (3). Historical advantages, such as the equity gained through home ownership, represent intergenerational wealth that remains relevant today.

(1) - “Introduction,” Mapping Inequality, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond.

(2) - Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948); The Fair Housing Act of 1968, Pub. L. No. 90-284, 82 Stat. 73 (1968); 1953 Minnesota Laws 564 (April 21, 1953).

(3) - Daniel Pierce Bergin, dir., Jim Crow of the North (St. Paul, MN: Twin Cities Public Television, 2019), video, 57:36; Larry Adelman, executive producer, Race—The Power of an Illusion: How the Racial Wealth Gap Was Created, episode 3, “The House We Live In” (San Francisco: California Newsreel, 2010), Vimeo video, 29:18.