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Racial Restrictive Covenants, Chicago, 1924-1946

Guiding Question: To what extent did Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice become a reality for African Americans in the first half of the twentieth century?

  • I can interpret primary sources related to Founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice in the first half of the twentieth century.
  • I can explain how laws and policy, courts, and individuals and groups contributed to or pushed back against the quest for liberty, equality, and justice for African Americans.
  • I can create an argument using evidence from primary sources.
  • I can analyze issues in history to help find solutions to present-day challenges.

Building Context

During World War I, the constitutionality of city ordinances regulating where Blacks and whites lived was challenged in the Supreme Court in Buchanan v. Warley (1917). In a unanimous decision, the court found that racial zoning ordinances violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause. The ruling meant that cities could not issue racial zoning ordinances, but it left the possibility of private discrimination open. In private deeds and developer maps, racial restrictive covenants, or legal agreements that prohibit the purchase, lease, or occupation of a piece of property by a particular group, became a common practice to limit where African Americans could buy homes. The following examples of racial restrictive covenants come from neighborhoods in Chicago.

Racial Restrictive Covenants, Chicago, 1924-1946

Dunas’ Forest Crest Source Link:
Burnham Park Source Link:

Dunas’ Forest Crest


1924: “That no part of said lots or premises shall be conveyed or leased by the owners thereof, or any subsequent grantee or the successors in title to any person or persons nor shall any improvements erected thereon be used or occupied by any person, not of the Caucasian Race.”
(Source: Plat #8452607, Platbook 192, Page 20. Recorded: June 5, 1924. Expired: January 1, 1980)


Burnham Park


1937: “Only persons of the Caucasian race may own, lease, occupy, or use any of said lots, except that any persons may be employed on said premises as domestic servants or chaufeurs.”
(Source: Plat #12075390, Platbook 323, Page 8. Approved: October 15, 1937. Recorded: October 29, 1937. Expired: January 1, 1958)


Evergreen Park Hills:


1946: “That in the event that said premises herein described shall be conveyed or leased by the grantees or any of the successors in title of the grantee to any person who is not a Caucasian . . . ”
(Source: Plat #13884000, Platbook 361, Page 11. Recorded: September 4, 1946. Expired: January 1, 1980)

Comprehension and Analysis Questions

  1. How would racial restrictive covenants contribute to segregation in northern cities?
  2. Note the expiration date of the covenants. What does this reveal about the issue of segregation in Chicago?
  3. The court invalidated these restrictive covenants in the 1948 case Shelley v. Kraemer. In addition, the NAACP backed efforts challenging discrimination in housing, voting rights, school segregation, and interstate transportation in the first half of the twentieth century. Attorneys Moorfeld Storey, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Thurgood Marshall all won victories in the crusade for equality. What lessons can be learned from their actions?