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.

There were two actions that are important to mention.  The US Supreme Court case  Shelley v. Kraemer  from 1948 struck down enforcement of racially restrictive housing covenants. Covenants could and were still placed on lands after 1948 but were not enforceable.  The Civil Rights Act of 1968 expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968).

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. Initial work did NOT include deeds, land contracts etc.. Subsequent work was expanded to include real estate documents from specific timeframes that were available.  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.

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. To search all records for a certain year prior to 1937 would be a much larger undertaking. For example in 1938 there were approximately 14 thousand documents recorded.

The interactive map link below shows red boundaries as defined by the documents. 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 story 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 and review of all recorded documents for the years 1937-1969 - DONE.  Manual review for all recorded documents for the years 1900-1937 - IN PROCESS.

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