Edina residents work to discharge racial covenants in property deeds

For more than 20 years, Jeff Hall has called the historic Country Club neighborhood of Edina home. He was shocked to learn his property deed contained a racial covenant, designed to bar people of color from buying a home there.

According to the University of Minnesota's Mapping Prejudice project, about 2,800 residential properties in Edina have racial covenants in their deeds. More than 500 of them are in the Country Club neighborhood.

"When you see it on your home, it becomes so personal," said Hall.

Even though the covenants were ruled unenforceable by the Supreme Court in 1948, they helped segregate and form the future fabric of neighborhoods. 

Edina was pioneered by Black families, like the Yanceys, in the 1890s. By 1920, racial covenants became prevalent and just a decade later, most of Edina's Black families had moved away.

"How our communities look now have something to do with those racial covenants. It's kind of shaped who is where now," said MJ Lamon, community engagement manager with the city of Edina.

Hall turned to the city, a partner of the Just Deeds project, which provides resources for homeowners who want to renounce discriminatory language from their deeds.

"Our hope is just that those that are interested, if they want to take the step, are welcome to come forward and we are here to support them," said Lamon.

"It won't erase the history because we don't want to erase history because it's important. The racial covenant will still be there, but the discharge will to," said Hall.

Along with several neighbors, Hall is now working to educate others in the area about how they can take the small, but symbolic step. 

"Just because we have discharged our deed doesn't mean that we have racial equity.  There's still a lot more work to do, so it's a starting point," said Hall.

11 cities in the state are now a part of the Just Deeds Project.

If you want to learn if your property deed contains a racial covenant, click here.