It’s not easy but homeowners can now erase remnants of Capitol Hill’s racist real estate restrictions

“The Communist Party Newspaper, New World, published articles attacking racial restrictive covenants in 1948” — Racial Restrictive Covenants: Enforcing Neighborhood Segregation in Seattle

Language from Seattle’s history of racist property restrictions can now be removed from properties thanks to a new law. While there are likely plenty of them to be flushed out on Capitol Hill, property owners might face a challenge sorting out whether legal remnants of the racist restrictions are part of their home’s records.

The new option, created by state law which went into effect January 1, allows homeowners to petition the King County Superior Court to completely delete the passage from the deed. There is a $20 filing fee with the court. Then you still have to file with the Recorder’s Office to seal the deal.

The county will maintain the original documents for the historical record but the effort will allow property owners who want to move on from including the racist language in a new version of the deed.

Most prevalent from the early 1920s through the early 1950s, these covenants would appear in the house’s title, legally forbidding a homeowner from selling, leasing or giving the house to a black person. Often, the wording would also exclude Asians, Jews, Arabs, and in some cases any “non-caucasians.” It was one form of legal enforcement behind redlining, a practice commonly used by racists in Seattle and around the country. Continue reading

Remembering the infamous red line of ‘Segregated Seattle’

Every year during February’s Black History Month since we first ran the story in 2014, our report on the history of neighborhood segregation around Capitol Hill and the Central District is one of the most-searched articles on the CHS site.

“In 1927, a small group of white homeowners on Capitol Hill had a problem,” it begins,  “How to keep the Central District’s black population corralled to the ‘ghetto’ south of Madison.”

You can read the full story here:

#blacklivesmatter: A look at the covenants on Capitol Hill

It is not a comfortable read:

In 2006, a group of University of Washington students discovered 126 covenants covering thousands of properties all over Seattle. The trove of documents reveals a shameful truth of Capitol Hill’s not-too-distant past: it was once neighborhood policy to keep the Central District black in order to keep Capitol Hill white.

In March, the Museum of History and Industry and the Northwest African American Museum are organizing a series of walks starting at 19th and Madison’s Mt. Zion and traveling “along the infamous ‘red line,’ hallmark of racial inequity and housing segregation in Seattle.” The first two Segregated Seattle: Walk the Infamous Red Line are already sold out but you can watch the event’s Facebook page for updates about more opportunities to attend.

Next week, the Central District’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute will host a Wednesday-night screening and panel discussion of A Central Vision, a 30-minute documentary film by Inye Wokoma and the City of Seattle’s Office of Planning and Development that “looks at the history of the Central Area, current plans and policies addressing the rapid growth and change in the neighborhood, and the future stake of long-time residents.”