Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Planning & Development

Mapping Prejudice Project

Beginning in June 2022 Dane County Planning and Development, Dane County Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Dane County Boys and Girls Club partnered for a summer program of research and mapping.

This was our attempt at a Mapping Prejudice program  (University of Minnesota).  The U of M looked at 26,000 racial covenants and collaborated with a large amount of volunteers.

The US Supreme Court case  Shelley v. Kraemer  from 1948 struck down enforcement of racially restrictive housing covenants. Covenants were still placed after 1948 but were not enforced.

Using images of recorded "Covenants", "Restrictions" and "Plats" from the Register of Deeds staff generated searchable text. This constituted no less than 1,700 documents that were preselected. This did NOT include deeds, land contracts etc.. Searching the text for keywords like "Caucasian", "Servant", "Italian" and "Race" staff were able to identify specific documents that might have restrictive text on them. A review of each document was next in the process followed by mapping the plat described in the document. Some documents did not generate coherent text and thus had to be visually inspected. This could have been because of poor scan quality, cursive, text that was not horizontal and a variety of other reasons.

After mapping the restrictive plats a static map was created to better visualize the entirity of the project. STATIC MAP

There are some limitations to the data. The Dane County Register of Deeds is currently back indexing in 1937 and more restrictions are likely to be found. Our project was just looking at documents of type "Covenant", "Restriction" or "Plat" it did not include "Deed", "Land Contract" and a multitude of other types. To search all records for a certain year would be a much larger undertaking. For example in 1938 there were approximately 14 thousand deeds recorded.

The interactive map link below shows the same red boundaries from the static map. As you zoom in the plat name will appear and if you click on an area you will get more information like the year, the document number and a link to view the actual document with highlighted restrictive text.


You can get a closer look at the how by exploring the static map below.


This was a joint venture between  Dane County Planning and Development and the  Boys and Girls Club of Dane County .

Similar work is underway for Milwaukee County LINK.  There is draft state legislation regarding "...declaring discriminatory restrictions in instruments that affect real property void and unenforceable..."

Project status: review of plat maps - done, review of document type "Covenants and Restrictions" from the Register of Deeds - done, review of all recorded documents for the years 1937-1969 - done, review in process for all recorded documents for the years 1900-1937.

Document Number 753269

An example of a racially restrictive document recorded on 22 September 1947.  This example is from the Assessor's Plat of the Village of Middleton (now City of Middleton).

Mapping Prejudice - University of Minnesota