The Legacy of Racial Covenants

racial_covenants.jpgNo persons of any race other than the white race shall use or occupy any building or any lot, except that this covenant shall not prevent occupancy by domestic servants of a different race domiciled with an owner or tenant.  Racial Covenant, West Hartford 1940 (provided by Professor Jack Dougherty of Trinity College in On the Line).


What are racial covenants?  Racial covenants are private agreements limiting who can rent or own property.  Although in 1948 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such agreements were unenforceable, racial covenants persisted through 1968 when they were outlawed in the Fair Housing Act, and beyond.  

We still live with the legacy of the racial covenants today.  Any White person who bought or inherited a home that was purchased around 1970 or before and was subject to an explicit racial covenant or implicit social pressure to sell only to White purchasers will likely get the benefit of the increase in value the property has experienced over time.  This benefit will not be experienced by families who were originally prevented from purchasing property due to racial covenants.  The covenants restricted families of color to certain areas that, in many cases, either started out as less desirable or became so over time due to a variety of segregating policies that generated disinvestment and poverty concentration.  The residential segregation that exists in Connecticut today is, in part, the legacy of racial covenants.

To learn more about racial covenants and other policies that shaped our segregated landscape, explore Open Communities Alliance's website.  To help us create true housing choice and open communities, join the Coalition!

  • Open Communities Alliance
  • 75 Charter Oak Avenue
  • Suite 1-200
  • Hartford, CT 06106
  • Phone: 860-610-6040