Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Planning & Development

Mapping Prejudice Project


Dane County, WI is undertaking a mapping and public engagement process to identify and confirm restrictive language in real estate records and create opportunities to remedy historic injustices and works towards structural and distributional equity.[1]


Racial covenants were a wide spread tool for preventing property sales to people of particular decent up through the early and mid-1900’s. In 1917, the US Supreme Court invalidated racial zoning, causing the use of restrictive covenants to proliferate as an exclusionary tool. While racially restrictive covenants include language targeting many racial, religious, and ethnic groups, they especially targeted Black people during the Great Migration (1910-40), when millions moved North and West to seek new opportunities.

In 1948, the Supreme Court made covenants unenforceable by public law in Shelley v Kraemer. Twenty years later, the Fair Housing policy in the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning housing sale, rental, and financing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap, and family status. However, despite no longer being enforceable by law, covenants are still in land deeds and could be implemented via private action.

Mapping Prejudice in Seattle Washington is one of the first of the efforts to chronical these documents. The University of Minnesota’s Mapping Prejudice Project researched, validated, and seeks to discharge these restrictive records for Hennepin County, Minnesota. Similar work is also underway in Milwaukee, and several other regions of the nation. Inspired by these efforts, Dane County Planning and Development (P&D), Office of Equity and Inclusion, and the Dane County Boys and Girls Club (BGC) conducted a pilot study to identify and analyze records from 1937-1969 in June 2022.

On March 22, 2024, Governor Evers signed the 2023 Wisconsin ACT 210 [59.43 (9) (d) and 710.25] declaring discriminatory restrictions in instruments that affect real property void and unenforceable and allowing an owner of real property to discharge and release such a discriminatory restriction.


In the 2022 pilot, County staff and volunteers searched digitized records from 1937-1969 and identified 1,700 land records that might have racial restrictions. P&D staff and a BGC intern reviewed and mapped each document if restrictions were found. Staff then digitized the 1937 redlining map. Preliminary results for records and redlining are in this INTERACTIVE MAP. You can get a closer look at the 'how' by exploring the STORY MAP.


Two concurrent efforts are underway to complete this project in an accurate, useful, and meaningful way: data digitization and community engagement.

1. Data Digitization: Dane County Planning and Development staff are actively working with the Register of Deeds to review the remaining real estate documents from 1900-1936. These records will be run through a software program to identify keyword indicators of restrictive language as the records from 1937-1969 were. Once complete, these records will be mapped by P&D staff and included into the interactive map. Dane County anticipates reviewing approximately 330,000 records.

2. Community Engagement: Dane County staff and pilot partners need to identify stakeholders to undertake and/or participate in the record validation The purpose is to use the data discovery process as an opportunity for civic transformation for the greater Madison region, a region that prides itself in progressive values. Dane County staff will convene an initial group of interested parties to determine the best methods and process for conducting a county-wide effort.


Milestone 1 | Winter 2023: Complete pilot project to digitally process plat maps, covenants, restrictions, and all recorded documents for the years 1937-1969. Complete
Milestone 2 | Summer 2024: Project Planning Team convenes
Milestone 3 | Fall 2024: Advisory Committee Formation and meet
Milestone 4 | Winter 2024/5: 330,000 records digitized and searched for keywords
Milestone 5 | Winter-Spring 2025: Community Engagement
Milestone 6 | Summer 2025: Final Report & Recommendations for policy and action
Milestone 7 | Summer 2025:  Publically accessible digital resources and in-person displays
Milestone 8-n | Fall 2025: Restorative Actions and Policies are implemented

[1] Catenacci, S. PAS QuickNotes. ISSN 2169-1940. American Planning Association. 5 June 2024. Chicago, IL 60601-5927

Document Number 753269

An example of a racially restrictive document recorded on 15 December 1947.  This example is from the Plat of Homestead Highlands, Fourth Addition in the Village of Monona (now City of Monona).

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