Racial Restrictive Covenants and Wealth Inequity

An oft-stated adage in the United States goes something like, “home ownership, is a part of the American dream.” While this point of Americana can be debated, something more certain is that homeownership increases familial net worth and generational wealth overall.1 When a household owns a home, that property can serve as an asset which could be used to pay […]

An Introduction to the Durham County Register of Deeds Office

Who owns it? Who sold it? How much did it cost?  These are just a few of the questions that someone with a little time on their hands can answer  as they wander through the records at the Durham County Register of Deeds Office. History and mission Since 1881 when William Lowe was installed as Durham’s first Register, Durham’s Deeds […]

A Legal History of Racially Restrictive Covenants

For many years, racial housing discrimination was a matter of public record. Under the “separate but equal” framework of Plessy v. Fergusson,[1] towns and cities across the country enacted racist public zoning laws that excluded non-white persons from the “nice” parts of town. This public racism was both legal and widespread. In fact, some of the country’s earliest zoning laws […]

Project Updates for May/June 2020

In February of 2020, we were excited to learn that our project had been selected to receive a Civic Switchboard Field Project award! This was wonderful news as we had assembled a wonderful project team bringing knowledge, enthusiasm, and determination.  Everyone was eager to contribute to the goals laid out in the project application.  You can learn more about the […]

Why Hack into Durham History?

For years, there has been an efficient lock-down system for people that those in power wanted to keep away, those “undesirables”: property rights. In Durham, North Carolina, as in cities and counties throughout the United States, racially restrictive covenants can be found in historical property deeds. These covenants prohibited ownership and/or use of property by non-white people in certain neighborhoods throughout Durham County. Though they are no longer legally enforceable, they remain present today in the handwritten or typed deeds collected in books at the County Registrar.