Racial Restriction and Housing Discrimination in the Chicagoland Area

Project Idea

Well over half a century after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision of 1954 struck down a long American tradition of legal racial segregation and discrimination, the United States remains deeply fragmented along racial and ethnic lines. With its checkered history of funding, opportunity, and outcome gaps, schools have always been the battleground on which ideas about racial segregation are constructed, contested, and reimagined. Yet, educational inequities are only indicative of a deeper tradition of housing discrimination and residential segregation that uses a variety of legal, political, economic, and cultural strategies to deny minoritized racial/ethnic communities equitable access to the full exercise of their citizenship and human rights.

This project investigates and documents the history of one such housing discrimination strategy, racial restrictive covenants in Cook County, Illinois, focusing on a timeline and interactive map tracing this history. The project seeks to unearth lesser-known artifacts of this history and to link them to other housing discrimination tactics, such as redlining, panic peddling and blockbusting. The documentary evidence made available through this project are digitally archived in various interactive formats for public consumption and for educational purposes.

This project is made possible by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the Lake Forest College Digital Chicago: Unearthing History and Culture project.