Hidden In Old Home Deeds, A Segregationist Past Sometimes deeds read "whites only." In Seattle, Asian restrictions were common, while Hispanics were the target in Los Angeles. The discriminatory language is no longer enforceable, but the words remain a painful reminder. The clauses are so difficult to remove that in most cases only a state legislature can do it.
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Hidden In Old Home Deeds, A Segregationist Past

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Hidden In Old Home Deeds, A Segregationist Past

Hidden In Old Home Deeds, A Segregationist Past

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: From member station WFAE, Julie Rose reports.

JULIE ROSE: You live here?

M: Yeah.

ROSE: Can I ask you a quick question?

M: Sure.

ROSE: Oh, look, you've got it framed even.

M: Oh, yeah. Yeah. See, it was 1935.

ROSE: Williford certainly doesn't agree with that, but...

M: That's - I mean, the deed is just the deed to the house and that's - I mean, things were different back in 1935, certainly than they are now.

ROSE: And not just in the South. Seattle historian James Gregory and a team of University of Washington students have amassed a database of thousands of deeds with racist wording.

P: Racial- restrictive covenants became common practice in cities across the country - dozens of cities in the North, the South, the West for, you know, a quarter of a century. This was the thing to do.

ROSE: Sometimes they read "Whites only." In Seattle, Gregory says Asian restrictions were common, and Hispanics were the target in Los Angeles. In 1968, Congress outlawed racial deed covenants. But Gregory says their impact endures.

P: Restrictive covenants have had a long shadow.

M: There are not a lot of African-Americans in the community.

ROSE: Writer Mary C. Curtis is one of the few living in Charlotte's Myers Park neighborhood. She bought a home here in 1994, despite the racial legacy.

M: It didn't matter. I'm going to live wherever I want to and where the school was great, but that's just the way it is. And I think people should know that history - and it's not that long ago.

ROSE: The truth is, most people don't know about the racial covenants in their deeds. Homebuyers rarely see the original deed, and real estate attorneys hardly ever point out the race restriction. In Myers Park, it wasn't even an issue until the homeowners association posted a sample deed on its Web site - including the racial wording. The president of the North Carolina NAACP, William Barber, complained to the city.

M: If you saw that, it could in fact create what we call freezing - making people think twice about one. It could create psychic harm - what in the world is this? It could create discouragement.

ROSE: The attorney for Myers Park, Ken Davies, says it's not that simple.

M: That is a completed legal recording, and we have no authority to go back and tell the registrar of deeds to eliminate this or that from whatever deed we don't like. And everyone knows that it's something that is a historic relic.

ROSE: For NPR News, I'm Julie Rose in Charlotte.

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