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Monroe County's racial covenant project nears mapping stage

Bloomington tree canopy

(Courtesy: CanopyBloomington)

Monroe County residents will soon be able to search online for which local properties contain racially restrictive covenants.  

The Monroe County Recorder’s Office is set to begin mapping those locations as part of its project to collect and identify properties that contain such restrictions. 

Chief deputy recorder Ashley Cranor began collecting information on the covenants in late 2019 after running across them regularly in her work.

The Recorder’s Office eventually partnered with the Monroe County History Center to comb through the county’s historic housing documents and identify those that contain racially restrictive language, which was common throughout the first half of the 20th Century. Many local documents limited property ownership or residency in certain areas to “members of the pure white race.” 

READ MORE: Black History in Southern Indiana: Racially restrictive housing covenants in Bloomington 

“It's fascinating, it's horrific,” Cranor said. “I think it'll give the community and individuals something to learn from and ask themselves questions.” 

The covenants are no longer enforceable, but because housing documents are legal deeds, the language remains.

The project has identified 12 plats that contain racial covenants. Any residences located in those plats would also contain the language. Cranor has identified at least 1,000 deeds with the language so far.

“I would assume a lot of homeowners don't even know that they have this restrictive covenant that is written into their neighborhood and that it was designed for only white people,” Cranor said. 

The Recorder’s Office is partnering with the county’s Geographic Information System Division to create a digital map for residents to browse. They’ll continue updating it with new locations and layers as information becomes available. Cranor hopes the map will be live by the start of next month. 

“It's there to be studied and to be learned about because there's no doubt that there’s been effects (of housing discrimination) that are still being felt today,” Cranor said. 

Homeowners concerned about carrying the covenants can now show their opposition to the racist language. The General Assembly passed a bill last session that allows homeowners to draft documents clarifying the covenants’ illegality.

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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