Gov. Tim Walz and supporters on Tuesday celebrated a measure that will allow Minnesotans to file a document renouncing racist language in the titles to their homes.
Homeowners across the state who have so-called racial covenants in their deeds may now request the county in which they are living to attach a statement to the deed expressing opposition to the language.
The covenants were inserted in the deeds by developers in the first half of the 20th century that stated that a house could not be sold to a person of color. Most of the covenants specifically barred sales to black buyers, but some also added American Indians, Asians and occasionally Jews.
At a ceremonial bill-signing, Walz praised lawmakers for their bipartisan support of the legislation. He noted that the language of the covenants is already illegal under state and federal law. But he said that words matter in “a state where everyone matters.” The covenants represent “stains on the state of Minnesota,” he said.
The bill was first introduced by state Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, and state Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis.
Davnie said he decided to introduce the bill after a Star Tribune report on the efforts of the University of Minnesota project Mapping Prejudice, which is seeking to identify all the homes in Hennepin County that contain the language.
While the legislation was part of the budget bill signed earlier by Walz, the ceremonial signing was an opportunity to gather those who supported it.
Afterward, Kirsten Delegard, director of Mapping Prejudice, introduced Walz to Anat McCarthy, 10, who with another student produced a slide show about the covenants for her fifth-grade class at Windom Elementary in Minneapolis. She said it was wrong to bar a person from living in a house “because of the color of their skin.”
State Sen. Greg Clausen, DFL-Apple Valley, told Walz after the signing that he had a lake home in Pequot Lakes with a deed containing a racial covenant barring the sale to nonwhites. Clausen said he planned to go to Crow Wing County to ask that it attach language saying he disavowed the racial covenant.
Kevin Ehrman-Solberg, a co-founder of Mapping Prejudice, said the project had found more than 17,500 homes with deeds containing racial covenants in Hennepin County so far and believes there are at least 10,000 more. Delegard said the group will start the process this year of doing the same covenant research in Ramsey County.