Grad students' "Owning Up" exhibit exposes racism in Minneapolis' past housing policies

A group of graduate students are digging into the history of racism in housing in Minneapolis through an interactive exhibit on display now at the Hennepin History Museum.

With the 2040 plan’s recent release, housing is a hot topic in Minneapolis, but an exhibit here is looking to the past in hopes of making a better future.

"The fair housing act was important to us. It’s sort of the lens we approached this project through,” said Kacie Lucchini Butcher, a U of M graduate student. 

This work of art hopes to make Minneapolis own up to its past with race and housing.

"Minneapolis is often lauded as a paradise of civil rights. Has great parks and great arts and culture. We wanted to ask the question who are those amenities for? Who has access to them?” Lucchini Butcher added. 

Two graduate students in the University’s Heritage Studies and Public History program created "Owning Up" to explore the history of racial housing discrimination in the city.

The maps, posters, and photos show how practices like racial covenants, clauses on deeds that restricted people of color from owning or occupying certain properties and redlining, or color coded maps used by the federal government to justify not backing mortgage loans in areas with more minorities, had an impact on Minneapolis both in the past and the present.

"In areas where racial covenants were, those areas remain mostly white today and remain some of the most valuable properties in Minneapolis,” said Denise Pike, a U of M graduate student. 

The exhibit also shows how structural racism affected three African American families like the Lees who bought a home along Columbus Avenue South in the early 30's only to have an angry white mob show up outside their home to voice their displeasure.

"That was a very violent situation,” Pike said. “They actually killed the family’s dog. It just goes to show that this was not subtle and it had real effects on real people."

The hope is, by looking at the past, visitors will help Minneapolis make better decisions about the future.

"Who lives in your neighborhood? Who's missing? And then I hope they ask those questions and think about how we want to move forward with housing,” Lucchini Butcher said.