How real estate developers shaped the racial landscape of Ward 4

Update: While the presentation is over, be sure to check out the Story Map on the website: Mapping Segregation in Washington DC.

There's a presentation and discussion tonight, April 14th at 7pm, at the Petworth Library on a fascinating topic about historic segregation in Ward 4. "Mapping Segregation in Washington DC" is a public history project documenting the historic segregation of DC’s housing and schools, playgrounds, and other public spaces. 

The project specifically looks at how "developer covenants" impacted Petworth and other local neighborhood, enforced by deed restrictions or petitions, to exclude minorities, particularly African Americans.

As Washington grew in the early 20th century, developers commonly sought to shape the character of new neighborhoods by including covenants (agreements) in deeds for the properties they sold. They might require that only single-family houses be constructed or that buildings be a certain distance from the street. They also might prohibit use of the property as a school, factory, or saloon―or prohibit its sale or lease to certain groups, most often African Americans. 
 
Because deeds are legal contracts, homebuyers needed to pay attention to what they were agreeing to. Buyers who ignored a covenant risked being taken to court, and racial covenants deterred African Americans from moving into new neighborhoods. Covenants also targeted other groups, including Jews. In DC this was more common west of Rock Creek Park (From Mapping Segregation, Prologue DC)

A map showing covenant-restricted lots in Petworth (courtesy Prologue DC)

The researchers presented the first part of their findings last summer, "highlighting DC's central role in the struggle to abolish restricted housing nationwide and shows how the city’s racial geography was shaped by segregation." (See the related Petworth News article "Mapping Segregation: discussion on the history of DC neighborhoods.")

Mapping Segregation in Washington DC was launched in 2014 by Prologue DC in collaboration with GIS specialist Brian Kraft of JMT Technology Group. It has been funded in part by the DC Preservation League and Humanities DC.

For more information, contact info@prologuedc.com Hope to see you there!