UWM researchers win grant to digitally map racially restrictive housing covenants

Two UWM researchers have won a federal grant of nearly $150,000 to continue their research into restrictive racial covenants in Milwaukee County.

The grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities will help Anne Bonds, professor of geography, and Derek Handley, assistant professor of English, to develop a digital platform to map and visualize racial covenants in early 20th-century Milwaukee.

Anne Bonds and Derek Handley

Racially restrictive covenants imposed conditions on the sale of a property that stipulated that only members of the white race could purchase, own or live on that piece of real estate. The once-common covenants were commonplace in the early 1900s but declined in the 1950s as they became legally unenforceable. But the use of the covenants echoes today in housing patterns and homeownership.

Bonds and Handley say that the mapping project should help people visualize the patterns of restrictive housing and how those effects linger in segregation to the present day.

“We are thrilled to receive funding from the NEH for the Mapping Racism and Resistance Project,” Bonds said. “This grant will support our work with UWM Libraries to ensure our data on racial covenants and challenges to them is preserved and accessible to the public. The funds will also support the creation of a digital platform to foster community engagement and dialogue about racial segregation and struggles for housing in Milwaukee.”

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