Apr 11, 2023 - News

St. Paul offers residents free help removing racist language from deeds

Illustration of a welcome mat with the inequality symbol on it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

A new partnership is helping St. Paul property owners in removing language from their deeds once meant to prevent people of color from buying or renting the home.

Why it matters: The restrictions, known as racial covenants, were common tools for promoting neighborhood segregation in the early 20th century.

  • They have been outlawed and legally unenforceable since the late 1960s, but advocates say words matter.

What they're saying: Golden Valley City Attorney Maria Cisneros, who founded a group working to rid the restrictions, describes discharging a covenant as "a very powerful act of resistance and repair."

  • She told MPR News it's "a tangible first step" that people can take to "place themselves in this history" and reclaim their home as an "equitable and welcoming" space.

How it works: Residents can check their address via the U's Mapping Prejudice Project. If records show a racial covenant on the deed, the owner can fill out the city's Just Deeds program application

  • City staff and the Mitchell Hamline Center for the Study of Black Life will enlist law students and volunteer attorneys to help homeowners who want to delete the language with necessary legal paperwork for free.

Of note: A number of other local cities, including Minneapolis, have launched their own racial covenant removal programs in partnership with Just Deeds. See the full list here.

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