Racially Restrictive Covenants and Redlining in Spokane

Logan Camporeale

Good morning! My name is Logan Camporeale and I am excited to tell you about my research regarding Racially Restrictive Covenants. I want to say thank you to the Washington State Historical Society for the opportunity to speak and to Bethany Mikolas for her invaluable help researching the more legal aspects of this topic. And also thanks to Allie Honican, Matthew Wright, Anna Harbine and the Center for Justice who all helped make this project possible. [Brief pause] Alright, first, I am wondering how many of you live in Spokane or are familiar with the city and neighborhoods?

I am going to tell you about how I learned about racially restrictive covenants in Spokane, then we will talk about what a covenant is and how they spread across Spokane. Then we will shift gears a little bit and look at the national context including Redlining, the Supreme Court, and the Fair Housing Act. Finally we will talk about what can be done to remove the covenants in our neighborhoods.

Good evening Whitworth! My name is Logan Camporeale and I am hear to talk with you about Racially Restrictive Covenants tonight. I want to say thank you to Marc Robinson for inviting me to speak and to Bethany Mikolas for her invaluable help researching the more legal aspects of this topic. And also thanks to Allie Honican, Matthew Wright, Anna Harbine and the Center for Justice who all helped make this project possible. [Brief pause] Alright, first, I am going to tell you about how I learned about racially restrictive covenants in Spokane, then we will talk about what a covenant is and how they spread across Spokane. Then we will shift gears a little bit and look at the national context including Redlining, the Supreme Court, and the Fair Housing Act. Finally we will talk about what can be done to remove the covenants in our neighborhoods.

The Discovery

Washington State Digital Archives & Eastern Region Branch

I recently completed a Master’s Degree in History, with a focus in public history, at Eastern Washington University. During my program I had a two year graduate assistantship at the Washington State Archives, Digital Archives and Eastern Region Branch. While I was working there, one of my responsibilities was to fulfill reference requests for researchers seeking to access the collections that we held. One day, my coworker, and good friend Allie Honican received a call from a researcher who was interested in putting in a new fence in front of her house.

…. Hello …. Can I put in a new fence?

She had just recently moved into a new home and her neighbors had told her she was not allowed to put in the fence she desired, due to a restrictive covenant that prevented it. The researcher had called the Spokane County Auditor looking for these covenants to confirm and the auditor referred her to the Eastern Region Branch Archives since they are the repository that holds those records. Allie located the restrictive covenant for the researcher’s property and there were no clauses relating to a fence. However she discovered something shocking.

What did I just read?

A clause that prevented people of color from living in the researcher’s neighborhood. Allie, shocked and rather upset, immediately contacted me and told me about the covenants. After seeing the covenants myself, I immediately began to research how they work and where they are in Spokane, and, well, I guess I should say, I am a bit of an activist so I also started to wonder, are these things still on the books, and if so how can we remove them. But first, let's unpack restrictive covenants and what they do.

Ask the audience, What is a covenant?

A covenant is a property document that is often attached to a dead or a plat that sets specific rules that are permanent and run with the land. They are usually for a group of homes, often an entire addition, or neighborhood. In Spokane, these documents are filed with the county auditor when they are put in place, and home buyers should be notified of them when they purchase a property. In most cases, the only way to remove covenants is for a majority of property owners to agree to change them.

What sorts of things were restricted?

Temporary Structures

Nuisances

No Detached Garages

This unique one specifies that construction of a home must be completed, including painting, within six months from the time it begins.

This one sets a minimum size for the ground floor for homes built in the covenant area.

And then this racially restrictive one that I have shown you before.

How does it work?

So, how does it work?

A statutory warranty deed is the document that is used to transfer property from one person to another.

And this is text from a Declaration of Protective Covenants. You can see the introduction at the top, which specifies the addition that these covenants apply to, and at the bottom you can see the racial restriction included in this covenant.

What part of town?

Address the spread of the covenants- the first covenant was filed in December 1939, and by October 1949 there were over 30 racially restricitve covenants spread across town.

Redlining

This map was created in 1938 as a project of the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, a New Deal Agency. They dictated where people of color would be allowed to live.

And the locations of those additions with racially restrictive covenants were not an accident. They line up very well with the Redlining maps created by the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, a New Deal Agency. They created color coded maps that identified levels of risk and creditworthiness in neighborhoods. Realtors, developers, and other citizens would use these maps to maintain racial segregation in their communities.

FHA:

Purpose was to provide mortgage loan guarantees in order to facilitate home ownership.

“If a neighborhood is to retain stability, it is necessary that properties shall continue to be occupied by the same social and racial classes.”

Racially diverse neighborhoods excluded from receiving insured mortgages.

Model form for racially restrictive covenants promulgated by the FHA became a tool for developers and landowners to protect property values.

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Frank Hopkins, owner of the Ebony Cafe, told The Spokesman-Review in 1961 what happened when he bought a house on the North Side, outside of an established black area. Just as he was about to move in, someone broke out 28 windows in one night.

“I just had to let it go,” he said.

That same year, the Rev. J.C. Brooks of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Spokane told The Spokesman-Review that a black person looking for a house would be steered to the “area for Negroes,” which he said was bounded by Division on the west, Altamont on the east, Ninth on the south and Sprague on the north. Today, it is called the East Central neighborhood.

This kind of “redlining,” as it was known, was especially ironic in Spokane.

“The funny thing is, the original 300 (the black pioneers), they lived all over Spokane,” said Maxey. “The dominant number lived in the East Side area, but, by far, it couldn’t be said that there was just one area.

“The original pioneers were spread all over, which was very much different from other cities.”

The pioneer families were accepted in their neighborhoods, by most accounts. But when it came to new families, that was a different story.

In fact, Maxey believes that World War II was the turning point in the struggle against segregation.

“Change was never explosive in Spokane,” he said. “It happened with the war more than anything else.”

For one thing, there were many black soldiers in uniform in Spokane, including hundreds stationed at Geiger Field in Spokane and Farragut Naval Base in North Idaho, and “they didn’t dare try to enforce it (segregation),” said Maxey.

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Lets take a look at the maps and see how much they align with the racially restrictive covenants in Spokane.

These mechanisms to ensure segregation were effective:

This map, featured in a 1968 publication, Race and Violence in Washington State: Report of the Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Civil Disorder, shows the distribution of the black community of Spokane in 1960. On this map, each dot represents 10 black persons.

Who is responsible?

William Cowles II

Although they were not the only developers adding these covenants to the properties they owned, the Cowles are responsible for at least five of the racially restrictive covenants in Spokane.

Wayne Guthrie

after learning about a major drag ball, Spokane city councilman Wayne Guthrie says Spokane is “not the place” for homosexuals; he backs down after a public outcry

In the 1970s, Guthrie served as a Spokane City Councilman and he ran for mayor three times in 1973, 77, and 81, all unsuccessful campaigns.

Supreme Court Decisions

  • Buchanan v. Warley (1917)

  • Corrigan v. Buckley (1926)

  • Shelley v. Kraemer (1948)

You might be thinking, were these covenants seriously legal? Well, lets step back a bit and look at the national context. Why were these covenants legal and how did their status change.

Prior to 1917, ordinance were set at the city or municipal level to segregate housing within the city.

In Louisville, they had a clause like the one on the slide. “An ordinance to prevent conflict and ill feeling between the white and colored races in the City of Louisville, and to preserve the public peace and promote the general welfare by making reasonable provisions requiring, as far as practicable, the use of separate blocks for residences, places of abode and places of assembly by white and colored people respectively.”

Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917)

Charles Buchanan was a white individual who sold a house to William Warley, a black individual in Louisville, Kentucky. Louisville had an ordinance that prohibited blacks from living on a block where the majority of residents were white. You can see the text of the ordinance on the slide. Since 8 of 10 houses were occupied by whites, Warley was not allowed to move into his home and live on the block. Buchanan sued Warley in Jefferson County Circuit Court to complete the sale. Warley cited the city ordinance as the reason for non-completion of the sale. The question went to the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Warley alleged that the ordinance violated the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Warley and effectively struck down segregation at municipal ordinance level.

The court was ahead of its time in the defense of the 14th amendment

all U.S. citizens must enjoy the same right to sell, purchase, and convey property

http://history.furman.edu/benson/hst321/Buchanan_v_Warley_UShistoryInContext.pdf

In the wake of this decision, segregationists sought to find another means to maintain their segregated cities. They circumvented the Buchanan decision by using private contracts, or restrictive covenants.

John Buckley sued another white woman who was trying to sell to a black family

271 U.S. 323 (1926)

Racially restrictive covenants established by private parties do not violate the constitution because “contracts entered into by private individuals in respect to the control and disposition of their own property” were valid.

It legitimized restrictive covenants and encouraged white folks to put them in place

http://uscivilliberties.org/cases/3650-corrigan-v-buckley-271-us-323-1926.html

In 1945, an African-American family by the name of Shelley purchased a house in St. Louis, Missouri. Unaware that a restrictive covenant was in place.

Prevented “People of the Negro or Mongolian Race” from occupying the premises.

Louis Kraemer, who lived ten blocks away, sued to prevent the Shelley’s from gaining possession of the property.

Renders racially restrictive covenants unenforceable since the Constitution does not give any individual a “right to demand action by a State which results in the denial of equal protection laws to other individuals.”

Fair Housing Act of 1968

  • Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act) prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of dwellings based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Spokesman-Review (1969)

Passed as a result of the outrage over the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, who had called attention to racial inequalities in housing. It was signed into law just a week after King died.

Allows third-party standing to individuals to pursue claims against illegal enforcement of already unenforceable racially restrictive covenants, even if they were not personally discriminated against.

At this point, racially restrictive covenants were no longer legal or enforceable, however, they were never removed or erased.

Bill First - (OH858)

Planning in Spokane

Collaborations

Like I said earlier, on top of my passion for local history, I am also a bit of an activist. As soon as I understood the covenants and how they worked I changed my focus to trying to remove them.

What can we do to remove them?

Sent email to neighborhood councils and city councilmember Breean Beggs

Met with Spokane City Council and the Spokane Human Rights Commision to see how they could help

Shawn Vestal

My professor put me in contact with a journalist, Shawn Vestal. And next thing I knew, my research was on the front page of the Spokesman-Review … and not everyone was happy about it.

This is a good lesson for how controversial public history can be.

Marc A. Robinson

John Schram

Law Interns:

Bethany Mikolas,

Ryan Dalessi, Brad Lyman

Gonzaga Environmental Law & Land Use Clinic

Rick Eichstaedt

The newspaper article rose awareness to the issue. Rick Eichstaedt from the Center for Justice became interested in the project and he assigned a law student intern, Bethany Mikolas, to the project. She researched the legal process to remove the covenants and started searching for a trial case.

Unfortunately we were not able to find a trial case and as Bethany graduated and moved away, the project fell on slow times.

Rule 9 intern for the Gonzaga Environmental Law & Land Use Clinic

Brad Lyman

Rick Eichstaedt

Noel Frame

Substitute House Bill 2514 (2018)

What happens next?

Add a slide with a call to action

Add a slide for Jewish segregation re: Bill First

Copy of Inland NW Housing Conf Presentation - Google Slides