Uncovering Racially Restrictive Covenants: Omaha’s Spatial Justice Project
Jeannette Gabriel (UNO), Christina Dando (Professor, UNO), Jennifer Harbour (Associate Professor, UNO)
The Omaha Spatial Justice Project at the University of Nebraska-Omaha is an interdisciplinary research project documenting historic implications of redlining and restrictive covenants. Geographer Ed Soja defines spatial justice as "the fair and equitable distribution in space of socially valued resources and opportunities to use them." Resources and opportunities in the form of property ownership were denied to some Omaha residents through the use of racially restrictive covenants, contractual agreements prohibiting the purchase, lease, or occupation of property by a defined racial or ethnic group. (Moderator Ramón Guerra)
Part of the Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains summit.
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[00:00:00.068](calm acoustic guitar music)
[00:00:05.160]So this is a discussion session
[00:00:10.620]called Uncovering Racially Restrictive Covenants:
[00:00:14.380]Omaha's Spatial Justice Project.
[00:00:18.590]I'll be moderating this session.
[00:00:21.070]My name is Ramon Guerra.
[00:00:23.020]I'm from UNO, like Katie was saying,
[00:00:25.310]and we were having some issues there,
[00:00:27.890]but we're good, we're ready to go.
[00:00:32.760]What we'll do is I will introduce each of our panelists,
[00:00:37.940]who are all from UNO by the way, so UNO represent,
[00:00:42.830]and then I'll have each
[00:00:44.450]of them kind of introduce themselves,
[00:00:47.070]their role in the project,
[00:00:49.110]and then we will open it up to a nice discussion.
[00:00:54.350]We have just a few people here now,
[00:00:56.960]so we may be able to just ask questions directly
[00:01:01.530]in a live sort of discussion format.
[00:01:04.520]If we do add more and we get to too many,
[00:01:06.560]we might switch to using the chat
[00:01:11.010]to ask those questions, so.
[00:01:14.670]Just a little bit about the Omaha Spatial Justice Project,
[00:01:19.070]it is at the University of Nebraska Omaha,
[00:01:21.890]interdisciplinary research project
[00:01:23.850]documenting historic implications of redlining
[00:01:27.380]and restrictive covenants.
[00:01:29.950]Geographer Ed Soja defines spatial justice as, quote,
[00:01:34.157]"the fair and equitable distribution in space
[00:01:37.697]"of socially valued resources
[00:01:39.927]"and opportunities to use them."
[00:01:42.390]Resources and opportunities in the form
[00:01:44.840]of property ownership were denied
[00:01:47.450]to some Omaha residents through the use
[00:01:49.750]of racially restrictive covenants,
[00:01:52.040]contractual agreements prohibiting the purchase, lease,
[00:01:55.530]or occupation of property by defined racial or ethnic group.
[00:02:00.430]So we have three presenters in this area.
[00:02:03.660]The first of this is Dr. Jeannette Gabriel.
[00:02:06.760]She's the director of the Schwalb Center for Israel
[00:02:10.220]and Jewish Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
[00:02:15.140]Dr. Gabriel, would you like to go ahead
[00:02:16.760]and tell us about your work on this project?
[00:02:22.730]Actually, Professor Harbour is gonna start.
[00:02:24.900]Okay, well then, (chuckles) that's fine.
[00:02:27.050]So Dr. Jennifer Harbour is associate professor
[00:02:30.140]in the Black Studies department
[00:02:31.420]at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
[00:02:33.530]So Dr. Harbour, would you like to get us started then?
[00:02:37.440]Yes, can you hear me okay?
[00:02:39.320]Yes I can.
[00:02:41.470]So I, along with my colleagues,
[00:02:43.930]Christina Dando and Jeannette Gabriel and Jade Rogers
[00:02:48.510]at the Omaha Spatial Justice Project,
[00:02:51.860]have been working for 18 months,
[00:02:55.010]a year on securing some deeds from the City of Omaha
[00:03:00.730]and surround to examine them
[00:03:03.360]so that we can better understand spatial justice
[00:03:05.950]and what is spatial injustice,
[00:03:09.670]and so I get asked the question a lot about,
[00:03:12.390]what does it really mean to have spatial justice
[00:03:15.660]and what are sorta the goals for your project?
[00:03:18.270]So I'm gonna talk a little bit about that
[00:03:19.602]and just a little bit
[00:03:20.435]about the history before my colleagues join me.
[00:03:26.030]When we look at racially restrictive covenants
[00:03:29.830]and redlining, which we'll talk about in a minute,
[00:03:32.410]sort of we'll talk about the difference between the two
[00:03:34.570]of those, we see that African Americans
[00:03:38.590]and other racially minoritized demographic groups
[00:03:44.050]were disallowed property ownership
[00:03:45.990]and the use of facilities and distribution of resources,
[00:03:50.290]so typically people generally think about segregation
[00:03:54.240]in terms of water fountains and separate but equal
[00:03:59.750]and schools and that sorta thing,
[00:04:02.110]this gets particularly at neighborhoods and mortgages
[00:04:05.630]and space where people really grow intergenerational wealth
[00:04:13.130]by becoming parts of communities and taking on mortgages
[00:04:20.020]These activities caused serious harm to communities,
[00:04:22.920]we know this.
[00:04:24.050]Our project particularly looks at Omaha
[00:04:27.590]and the allocation of resources, budgets, political power,
[00:04:31.730]and how they've been unfairly distributed.
[00:04:35.390]Example of this obviously is gerrymandering.
[00:04:39.180]One of the things
[00:04:40.013]that I personally have been looking at
[00:04:42.600]is toilet segregation, believe it or not.
[00:04:45.070]I'm thinking about writing a whole book about it actually,
[00:04:48.460]because believe it or not, white women, especially,
[00:04:51.200]have taken some real issue
[00:04:54.230]with how Black women have encroached
[00:04:57.470]upon their space over the years when it came
[00:05:00.710]to working together,
[00:05:01.740]so our project looks particularly at mortgages,
[00:05:04.910]but I just wanted to make the point
[00:05:06.880]that there is a container culture out there
[00:05:09.840]and that container culture means
[00:05:11.530]that white people have traditionally tried
[00:05:14.470]to promote what is called a tragedy of the commons,
[00:05:18.990]in other words, that they don't want to share space
[00:05:21.700]with people from ethnic or religious minorities.
[00:05:27.580]So this is a picture taken by Gordon Parks
[00:05:30.270]who was a famous African American photographer,
[00:05:33.650]and as I said, this is kind of what people think of
[00:05:37.110]when we talk about segregation, but redlining
[00:05:39.850]and racially restrictive covenants
[00:05:42.670]specifically target real estate transactions, deeds,
[00:05:50.270]and how government became or did not become involved
[00:05:54.010]in those things
[00:05:54.843]and how those practices were legalized over the span
[00:06:00.520]of time, specifically in the 20th century.
[00:06:05.310]So those were the restrictive covenants,
[00:06:09.420]I don't know why I can't say that word today, covenant,
[00:06:12.060]are really tools,
[00:06:12.920]it's a language used to enforce the segregation
[00:06:15.360]that obviously is already present
[00:06:17.072]and that as we know of American history
[00:06:21.020]that that segregation has been,
[00:06:25.630]ever since race was created in the mid-1600s, right,
[00:06:29.090]that's something that's a very important part
[00:06:31.210]of American history.
[00:06:33.270]So segregationists used zoning laws
[00:06:36.140]to restrict racial minorities,
[00:06:38.450]their access to property and housing,
[00:06:41.370]so those covenants are real,
[00:06:43.470]depending on where the Supreme Court
[00:06:45.250]and depending on where the law,
[00:06:46.580]and I'll talk about that in a second,
[00:06:48.100]where the law kind of came in,
[00:06:50.790]they're used in different ways
[00:06:52.180]throughout the 20th century
[00:06:54.860]to decide where people would get to live
[00:06:57.160]and the kind of access they would have in their communities
[00:06:59.540]to mortgage lenders, to real estate agents,
[00:07:02.620]that kind of thing.
[00:07:05.730]I'm often asked what redlining is, is it a map,
[00:07:09.800]is it something else?
[00:07:12.080]Redlining is, and I think my colleague will talk
[00:07:14.830]about the differences between sort of what people think of
[00:07:19.120]as redlining and what we're after
[00:07:20.740]in terms of our own project,
[00:07:23.010]but it's really the discriminatory practice
[00:07:26.350]where services are not rendered, right,
[00:07:28.760]or services are denied or disallowed to people
[00:07:31.180]because of their race or ethnicity or religion,
[00:07:33.430]so it's not just African Americans,
[00:07:35.370]but also Indigenous peoples,
[00:07:38.570]people who are deemed different or lesser
[00:07:41.500]because of their religion, Jewish people, Muslim people,
[00:07:43.787]that kind of thing.
[00:07:47.700]In 1917, we sort of get the first big idea
[00:07:52.880]about what the Supreme Court is thinking
[00:07:54.760]in terms of what is constitutional and what is not,
[00:07:57.840]and the reason why I mention this is because there's a lot
[00:08:00.080]of debate among historians right now about what is,
[00:08:05.330]racially restrictive covenants, are they de facto,
[00:08:08.070]are they du jour, are they,
[00:08:11.184]what is the status according to the law?
[00:08:14.040]And so that's gonna be different for every city or state
[00:08:17.330]or region which is why it's important
[00:08:19.430]for us to have a specific project about Omaha
[00:08:22.960]and about what Omaha looked like,
[00:08:26.400]who participated in these practices, but anyway, in 1917,
[00:08:31.480]the Supreme Court says in Buchanan versus Warley
[00:08:34.130]that according to the 14th Amendment,
[00:08:36.770]which is interesting the way
[00:08:38.350]that the Supreme Court throughout the Jim Crow
[00:08:41.480]in particular thinks
[00:08:44.380]about which amendments are being violated
[00:08:49.680]for African Americans in particular,
[00:08:52.660]and they say that the zoning ordinances,
[00:08:54.830]and by that I mean things
[00:08:56.330]that would have said no Chinese people can live here kind
[00:09:00.350]of thing, and we see those in the 1880s and 1890s,
[00:09:04.300]that those violate the 14th Amendment,
[00:09:06.700]so the people who are strict segregationists
[00:09:09.430]and certainly in Jim Crow need to come up
[00:09:11.640]with some better ideas about how they're going
[00:09:13.690]to keep the people that they don't want
[00:09:16.880]in their neighborhoods out.
[00:09:20.500]In 1926, it's Corrigan versus Buckley
[00:09:23.620]and that's when the Supreme Court says okay,
[00:09:25.530]so we will uphold these racially restrictive covenants,
[00:09:28.163]so it's not too long, it's just another decade
[00:09:31.870]that the Supreme Court takes a look at some
[00:09:33.950]of these very early covenants and decides
[00:09:36.870]that they are indeed legal by the Constitution
[00:09:43.040]and that actually the racial rules are a very important part
[00:09:47.080]of what has been written and that owners
[00:09:50.310]and mortgage lenders could certainly be held to them,
[00:09:52.860]so that's tremendously dangerous for African Americans
[00:09:56.070]or anyone who is trying to get these deeds
[00:10:00.190]and these mortgages because of course that means
[00:10:02.940]that the law is on their side at this point.
[00:10:07.430]In 1934 and as a result of the New Deal,
[00:10:10.790]the Federal Housing Administration
[00:10:13.680]sees racially restrictive covenants
[00:10:16.270]in its underwriting manual
[00:10:17.700]and I think Dr. Gabriel's gonna talk more about this,
[00:10:21.300]but the idea here is that it is now codified
[00:10:25.030]into the Federal Housing Administration
[00:10:27.630]and that is particularly damning and damaging
[00:10:31.370]to African American communities in particular,
[00:10:34.230]because that means that anyone who's getting ahold
[00:10:36.280]of these underwriting manuals in the lending business,
[00:10:39.010]real estate, mortgage business is taking its cues
[00:10:43.330]from the Federal Housing Administration.
[00:10:47.640]This also includes, in terms of who is complicit
[00:10:50.450]and who plays by these rules,
[00:10:52.870]the American Board of Realtors, ABR,
[00:10:55.600]by the 1920s and 1930s they're doing education campaigns
[00:11:00.867]to persuade land developers and neighborhood associations
[00:11:04.710]to protect their property
[00:11:07.220]and they have lots of propaganda and advertising campaigns
[00:11:10.700]and these are, you can see,
[00:11:12.130]all kinds of these if you google it,
[00:11:15.170]based on these redlining maps from the HOLC
[00:11:20.850]that were prepared.
[00:11:23.550]So the question really I think is,
[00:11:25.780]so who is playing this game, right?
[00:11:27.610]So who are the people who are involved,
[00:11:29.907]and here you can see everyone from local governments,
[00:11:32.910]city councils, neighborhood associations, realtors,
[00:11:35.930]all the way out to the Federal Housing Association
[00:11:38.890]and the Home Owners' Loan Corporation,
[00:11:40.720]so from very early period, late 1920s and early 1930s,
[00:11:45.200]this is something that is a big part
[00:11:47.070]of how the federal government does business
[00:11:50.080]and how it advises people to do business.
[00:11:53.980]I wanna point out as an African American historian
[00:11:56.910]that there is tremendous resistance to this.
[00:11:59.940]This is the home of William Cotter in Levittown.
[00:12:03.020]Levittown was one
[00:12:03.853]of the first sort of big newsy suburban developments
[00:12:09.530]following World War II.
[00:12:12.230]William Cotter and his family are Black and they fight back
[00:12:16.210]in various ways against these racial covenants,
[00:12:19.340]against the container culture
[00:12:20.990]that white supremacists are attempting to build.
[00:12:23.960]So I just wanna to point out
[00:12:25.130]that African Americans are not just victims
[00:12:28.220]but lead to a lot of, eventually of course,
[00:12:31.390]will lead to a lot of change and will lead
[00:12:34.520]to a lot of campaigns against this kind of,
[00:12:38.300]these racialized practices.
[00:12:42.710]By 1968, luckily in Shelley versus Kraemer,
[00:12:45.810]finally the Supreme Court says, based on Shelley,
[00:12:49.210]J.D. Shelley and his family's case,
[00:12:51.930]that racial covenants
[00:12:53.190]in property deeds are unconstitutional.
[00:12:55.600]Again, they're looking to the 14th Amendment.
[00:12:59.120]Part of the problem
[00:12:59.953]with all of the Supreme Court cases is that there's not,
[00:13:04.340]just like separate but equal,
[00:13:06.100]there's not a great mechanism for enforcement, so we worry,
[00:13:10.820]particularly in history,
[00:13:11.940]just looking at the laws
[00:13:13.620]because of course a law is only good as its enforcement,
[00:13:18.780]but certainly this represents a major inroad
[00:13:23.260]for African Americans.
[00:13:25.470]Of course that doesn't mean after 1968
[00:13:27.740]that these don't happen, but it's kind of a good date
[00:13:30.840]for us to understand
[00:13:31.990]where the federal government is now stepping in
[00:13:34.840]and trying to make some of these things unenforceable
[00:13:38.340]and certainly illegal.
[00:13:43.010]So just another picture, I think,
[00:13:44.680]because when we're talking about laws and deeds
[00:13:48.557]and covenants, I think sometimes we forget
[00:13:50.550]about the people on the other side of them
[00:13:52.710]and as a social historian,
[00:13:55.040]I always think about what this means
[00:13:56.760]for intergenerational wealth
[00:13:59.670]and how African Americans become fully first-class citizens
[00:14:05.660]Obviously they still aren't,
[00:14:06.970]and so this picture kind of from the mid part
[00:14:10.600]of the 20th century makes us think
[00:14:12.710]about what segregation really means
[00:14:15.440]as people grow their families,
[00:14:17.070]as people especially try to take part
[00:14:19.510]in the economic boom following World War II.
[00:14:27.250]And I think we're going over to my colleague now.
[00:14:33.060]So just to pick up where Jennifer left off,
[00:14:37.600]this, I just wanna give a little background
[00:14:41.170]that the University of Nebraska Omaha
[00:14:43.860]has set up these strategic initiatives
[00:14:45.870]and we really viewed it as a group of scholars,
[00:14:49.200]as a collaborative process
[00:14:51.150]of bringing our different skillsets
[00:14:53.950]into examining this complex process
[00:14:58.100]of racial housing discrimination.
[00:15:04.380]And one of the main reasons
[00:15:06.200]that Omaha is such a fascinating case study
[00:15:08.580]to examine it is that it is one
[00:15:11.320]of the Great Migration sites out of the South,
[00:15:16.000]and that segregation
[00:15:18.820]is functioning significantly differently
[00:15:20.730]in the North than it is in the South.
[00:15:23.180]Rather than really transparent Jim Crow laws,
[00:15:27.280]there has been a lot of questions
[00:15:28.910]about how is it possible to really see
[00:15:31.100]and document institutional racism in the North?
[00:15:35.920]And because in many ways,
[00:15:37.530]institutional racism in the North has been hidden
[00:15:42.230]and one of these key structures
[00:15:43.930]has been within housing segregation,
[00:15:47.040]which we know
[00:15:47.873]in the post-war era is the largest factor contributing
[00:15:51.930]to the development of household wealth,
[00:15:54.690]through equity in their home.
[00:15:57.460]So housing segregation becomes then one critical lens
[00:16:01.170]for examining how institutional racism functions
[00:16:06.690]in the North.
[00:16:08.250]So what is redlining?
[00:16:10.940]I just wanna spell out this in some detail,
[00:16:14.330]because redlining has come to be used as a general term
[00:16:19.510]for institutionalized housing discrimination,
[00:16:23.250]and yet the way redlining functioned
[00:16:26.210]is largely misunderstood and over-applied.
[00:16:31.170]So redlining was actually the actions
[00:16:35.300]of mortgage lenders and insurance providers
[00:16:38.570]in the private sector who were denying loans
[00:16:41.970]and insurance to people living in certain,
[00:16:44.840]in particular marginalized communities,
[00:16:47.510]because they were considered greater risk.
[00:16:51.060]This was a business decision,
[00:16:53.350]not a decision around the race of the people
[00:16:56.820]within the community, that's how it was justified.
[00:17:00.420]So if loans and insurance were offered,
[00:17:03.080]it was at much higher rates, and this was again,
[00:17:05.710]not done with the claim of discrimination, but rather,
[00:17:09.670]from a business perspective,
[00:17:11.580]to protect the mortgage lenders and insurance companies
[00:17:14.570]from the increased risk of being in communities
[00:17:18.040]where people had higher unemployment rates,
[00:17:21.080]greater mobility, and less security.
[00:17:24.480]So the mortgage lenders argued
[00:17:27.060]that this was doing good business to protect their assets.
[00:17:31.060]By using this language,
[00:17:33.120]it stripped it of any connection to racial
[00:17:37.130]or ethnic discrimination.
[00:17:41.300]Now, during the Great Depression,
[00:17:43.540]the federal government sets up a widespread program
[00:17:46.330]to provide relief for the foreclosure crisis.
[00:17:48.720]The HOLC, or the Home Owner Loan Corporation,
[00:17:51.440]was created by the federal government to assist home owners
[00:17:54.980]by providing longer-term mortgages
[00:17:57.130]that they could pay off with regular payments.
[00:17:59.330]This creates the post-war boom economic stability
[00:18:04.140]through home ownership that leads
[00:18:06.240]to the development of wealth through home equity.
[00:18:09.070]The Federal Housing Administration, FHA,
[00:18:11.430]was created to make home ownership affordable to the broad,
[00:18:14.420]emerging middle class.
[00:18:17.430]However, with the HOLC and FHA providing billions of dollars
[00:18:22.120]to prop up such a sizable part of the economy,
[00:18:24.810]they felt compelled to appraise the stability
[00:18:27.600]of the neighborhoods
[00:18:28.880]in which they were making such substantial investments.
[00:18:32.060]The reason that I'm focusing on this language
[00:18:34.590]is because it is couched
[00:18:36.230]within completely appropriate,
[00:18:38.940]business determinate decision making.
[00:18:42.590]This is exactly how you would learn
[00:18:45.190]how to make appropriate financial decisions,
[00:18:48.300]to protect the assets.
[00:18:50.230]So when people look at redlining maps,
[00:18:52.680]the HOLC redlining maps,
[00:18:55.050]they're looking at what the mortgage companies
[00:18:57.710]and lending companies have been doing,
[00:19:00.650]and they're taking on that practice
[00:19:03.430]in order to protect their assets.
[00:19:07.940]Now we are more focused at looking at covenants,
[00:19:10.710]because covenants actually document the widespread practice
[00:19:16.240]of institutional racism
[00:19:18.350]in a way that the redlining maps cannot get to.
[00:19:21.490]We do not have documents
[00:19:24.000]from the mortgage companies
[00:19:25.540]examining the racially predative practices
[00:19:29.600]that they were engaged in
[00:19:31.390]in the period leading up to the post-war boom.
[00:19:34.970]But we do have the racially restrictive covenants.
[00:19:38.830]Now covenants are legal stipulations imposed
[00:19:42.270]on pieces of property
[00:19:43.610]that restrict how the property can be used,
[00:19:45.700]so there are many, many different types of covenants.
[00:19:48.456]What color you can paint your house in some cases,
[00:19:51.130]or whether you can have a water fountain in the front yard,
[00:19:55.180]but racially restrictive covenants began
[00:19:57.770]to be imposed nationally beginning in the teens and '20s
[00:20:01.580]to protect the value of residential properties,
[00:20:04.780]and again, it's about value, it's about protection.
[00:20:08.700]These were developed and imposed
[00:20:10.720]by the real estate industry and directly linked
[00:20:14.250]to the professionalization of the new real estate industry.
[00:20:18.960]We do not see a great deal of differentiation
[00:20:22.590]in the use of racially restrictive covenants nationally.
[00:20:25.800]The same type of language is being used.
[00:20:29.710]Here in Omaha in the Underwood Hills development,
[00:20:34.640]which was built as a sort of shiny new development
[00:20:38.410]in the post-war boom, 1947,
[00:20:41.130]we can take a look at one
[00:20:42.420]of the Underwood Hills restrictive covenants.
[00:20:45.387]"During the aforesaid period,
[00:20:48.607]"no person other than that of the Caucasian race shall be
[00:20:53.587]"or become the grantee or lessee of said premises,
[00:20:57.217]"nor except as a servant
[00:20:59.307]"of the family living thereon be granted the privilege
[00:21:02.897]"of occupying the same."
[00:21:05.130]This is very powerful language on a couple of levels.
[00:21:08.420]First of all, the Caucasian race is very broad.
[00:21:12.170]It is not synonymous with white,
[00:21:14.910]it's actually broader than that,
[00:21:17.230]and it changes in definition across time.
[00:21:20.250]So groups that are not considered Caucasian
[00:21:23.200]at one earlier period of time are brought
[00:21:25.790]into that definition in later points of time,
[00:21:28.490]such as the Polish community and the Jewish community,
[00:21:31.800]and the exception around domestic help is something
[00:21:35.420]that we see throughout racially restrictive covenants.
[00:21:39.920]So I wanna show another example here
[00:21:41.510]of a few racially restrictive covenants.
[00:21:43.210]This is work
[00:21:44.043]that my colleague Chris Dando is gonna follow up on
[00:21:46.450]in great detail.
[00:21:48.280]I'm really highlighting Kountze Place,
[00:21:50.660]which was one that received a lot
[00:21:52.730]of attention around their restrictive covenants
[00:21:55.940]in the post-war boom.
[00:21:58.030]They were really focused on a new post-war development
[00:22:01.790]in Midtown, and again,
[00:22:04.560]you see the language of the Caucasian race being used
[00:22:07.830]to keep this area restrictive.
[00:22:10.580]You see this area is right around,
[00:22:15.890]right coming into as the community begins to move west.
[00:22:22.490]So I wanna mention that at the same time
[00:22:25.580]that the HOLC is lending for new shiny white communities,
[00:22:29.680]they are also extending some loans for colored communities.
[00:22:34.310]The picture that you see here is a photograph
[00:22:38.000]of WPA photographer John Vashon who came to Omaha in 1938,
[00:22:42.820]documenting the housing in North Omaha.
[00:22:45.590]And you can see that the HOLC loans are being extended
[00:22:48.610]to colored families,
[00:22:50.470]but what is being offered
[00:22:52.090]to colored families is very, very different
[00:22:55.610]than what is being offered to the Caucasian community.
[00:23:01.150]This is actually seen as a shining example
[00:23:06.370]of the federal government's attempt
[00:23:08.270]to break down discrimination in housing practices in Omaha
[00:23:12.600]with the development
[00:23:13.830]of the Logan Fontenelle Federal Housing Project in Omaha
[00:23:17.740]in 1938 that had a section for white residents
[00:23:21.440]and a section for the African American community.
[00:23:24.670]They were segregated,
[00:23:26.110]but this was considered to be desirable housing.
[00:23:29.530]There was a lot of pushback from the Omaha community
[00:23:33.240]about providing federal funds
[00:23:36.330]for this type of housing project in Omaha
[00:23:39.160]with particular attacks on the fact that this was tax-free.
[00:23:43.620]So this was seen as a way
[00:23:46.160]to not directly attack the problems
[00:23:50.410]of racially restrictive covenants
[00:23:51.850]but to build better housing within marginalized spaces.
[00:23:58.150]I wanna just give a small amount of analysis
[00:24:00.820]of what the impact of racially restrictive covenants was.
[00:24:04.490]During the post-war boom and the period leading up to it,
[00:24:08.260]groups who were considered undesirable based
[00:24:10.510]on race were denied access to living in certain communities.
[00:24:13.370]The implications of this are very, very broad,
[00:24:17.120]and affect many different aspects of people's lives.
[00:24:21.200]Again, the widespread government relief
[00:24:23.400]that was implemented during the Great Depression was denied
[00:24:26.510]to marginal communities defined racially
[00:24:29.530]because they were deemed higher risk,
[00:24:32.190]so it was stripped of any racialized connotations,
[00:24:35.530]this was a good business decision.
[00:24:39.253]and insurance companies continued redlining practices
[00:24:41.870]denying access to loans
[00:24:43.430]but even if you could make enough money for a loan,
[00:24:46.530]you would still be restricted
[00:24:48.980]with a racially restrictive covenant
[00:24:50.960]in terms of where you could move.
[00:24:53.300]So what does this lack of access
[00:24:55.820]to home ownership really mean?
[00:24:57.710]It means marginalized groups are not able
[00:24:59.510]to develop the same intergenerational wealth
[00:25:01.670]that is built up through residential stability
[00:25:04.150]and home equity.
[00:25:05.500]So how does this play out in Omaha?
[00:25:07.930]Between 1950 and '60, there were 25,000 new homes built
[00:25:12.340]Only 50 of those new homes were occupied
[00:25:14.640]by African Americans, and there's, is a great statement
[00:25:18.540]from George Robinson, the secretary of Omaha's Urban League,
[00:25:22.017]"Negroes have far more difficulty getting mortgage money.
[00:25:24.687]"Lending institutions have their rules,
[00:25:26.717]"some of which are subject to interpretation.
[00:25:29.117]"In the case of the Negro, the rules are always rigid.
[00:25:31.957]"For example, when both husband and wife work,
[00:25:34.877]"the lending institution
[00:25:35.897]"will only consider the husband's income,
[00:25:38.247]"even though the wife is past child-bearing years.
[00:25:40.987]"The experience of the Negro
[00:25:42.267]"is that they must put up higher down payments
[00:25:44.657]"and pay a larger total sum."
[00:25:46.950]Even if they can meet those bars,
[00:25:48.980]they're still facing the racially restrictive covenants.
[00:25:52.827]And I wanted to add here a quote, when this issue began
[00:25:57.550]to be part of public forums in the early 1960s
[00:26:00.440]from N. Philips Dodge of N.P. Dodge Realty,
[00:26:03.497]"I must agree with Negro leaders
[00:26:05.357]"that our industry has not done what it should
[00:26:07.817]"to solve the problem of providing decent housing
[00:26:10.327]"for all of our citizens regardless of color.
[00:26:14.417]"the real estate broker cannot change the basic pattern
[00:26:18.987]"The agent carries out the desires of his clients,
[00:26:22.057]"and to blame him for the segregation is naive."
[00:26:26.050]Perhaps Mr. Dodge is correct.
[00:26:28.760]We can't blame the individual agents,
[00:26:31.110]but the real estate industry
[00:26:32.860]as a whole is implementing racially restrictive covenants
[00:26:36.730]as a national policy.
[00:26:38.900]So before I hand it over to my colleague, Professor Dando,
[00:26:41.970]I wanna comment that many people ask,
[00:26:45.010]does this have an impact on the present?
[00:26:47.580]This is not necessarily just a historical argument,
[00:26:51.840]because the 2008 predatory housing lending crisis led
[00:26:56.730]to the greatest loss of African American wealth
[00:26:59.990]in the history of our country.
[00:27:02.190]And this is a report that was put out
[00:27:04.270]by the Social Science Research Corporation documenting
[00:27:08.340]how this inequality of wealth was directly linked
[00:27:12.630]to the 2008 downturn, so as a result of that,
[00:27:16.970]we've seen that predatory lending policies
[00:27:19.610]have continued well into the modern period.
[00:27:28.440]And I'll introduce,
[00:27:30.540]since she didn't get introduced earlier, our third speaker,
[00:27:34.150]Dr. Christina Dando is the department chair
[00:27:38.020]and associate professor of geography
[00:27:41.180]and geology at the University of Nebraska Omaha.
[00:27:48.480]Just to follow up and kind of expand
[00:27:50.350]on what Dr. Gabriel was discussing,
[00:27:53.970]what we're in the process of doing is mapping,
[00:27:58.010]locating and mapping restrictive covenants in Omaha.
[00:28:01.260]This is a project that is going to take us some time,
[00:28:07.220]so we'll come back
[00:28:08.540]and talk a little bit about this at the end of my remarks.
[00:28:13.240]But as we work on restrictive covenants,
[00:28:15.310]we are also looking at other, not situations,
[00:28:20.603]other examples of spatial injustice in Omaha.
[00:28:24.480]And this includes practices such as the plans made
[00:28:31.410]in the 1940s and 1950s.
[00:28:34.450]So in 1947, Omaha made LIFE Magazine
[00:28:38.960]with their ambitious plans for their city.
[00:28:41.300]Quote, "They have got together
[00:28:42.567]"in the old-fashioned democratic way
[00:28:44.417]"to make Omaha bigger and better, cleaner and more helpful."
[00:28:48.640]Their grand plans
[00:28:49.690]for improvement included addressing older neighborhoods
[00:28:52.230]such as the initiative we saw, that Dr. Gabriel showed,
[00:28:55.080]largely occupied by people of color and by immigrants,
[00:28:58.320]which of course were not represented in LIFE Magazine.
[00:29:02.180]Omaha leaders laid out a progressive narrative of Omaha.
[00:29:07.000]We know that such maps and such plans,
[00:29:11.340]as in the Omaha plans,
[00:29:13.370]and the maps that accompanied them are both human constructs
[00:29:16.730]and primarily those of people in power,
[00:29:20.180]and that maps are used as part of the rhetoric
[00:29:23.160]to advance their agendas.
[00:29:26.060]So what I wanna do just for a little bit
[00:29:27.860]is what is the narrative advanced by the Omaha plans?
[00:29:33.160]How might we begin to construct an alternative narrative
[00:29:35.980]of Omaha's urban landscape that would be more inclusive,
[00:29:39.210]and how might we engage in restorative cartography today?
[00:29:42.750]And I'm gonna be playing a little bit
[00:29:43.890]with the word infrastructure.
[00:29:46.560]We usually think of infrastructure as being streets, roads,
[00:29:49.430]airports, ports, but scholars Josh Inwood
[00:29:53.870]and Derek Alderman also refer to the visualization of,
[00:29:58.580]the infrastructure of visualization.
[00:30:00.660]That is, maps and plans that organize space
[00:30:04.830]in the service of racism, colonialism, and capitalism,
[00:30:08.090]but which can also offer a platform for alternative views.
[00:30:13.920]So if we were to construct a spatial narrative
[00:30:19.870]that came from Omaha's city leaders,
[00:30:22.150]it might sound kinda like this.
[00:30:25.830]Omaha Mayor Charles Leeman organized a citywide study,
[00:30:29.610]and moved fairly quickly.
[00:30:31.570]Committees were organized, study's carried out,
[00:30:33.810]and the final report issued in 1946.
[00:30:37.320]The Housing and Slum Area Elimination Committee,
[00:30:40.320]composed of realtors, such as Dr. Gabriel mentioned,
[00:30:43.740]business executives, small business owners, professionals,
[00:30:46.500]recommended the rehabilitation of the North Side district,
[00:30:51.270]which would be the slightly darker rectangle
[00:30:54.940]at the center of the right-hand map,
[00:30:57.500]and it also recommended the removal of a small area
[00:31:00.690]in South Omaha, the little kind of black rectangle in South.
[00:31:04.360]Ultimately, while the report recommended 17 major projects,
[00:31:08.070]only 10 were acted on,
[00:31:09.930]the construction of a civic auditorium, fire houses,
[00:31:12.760]new equipment for police and fire, new parks,
[00:31:17.940]housing however was not addressed.
[00:31:21.470]In the mid '50s, in conjunction with the 100th anniversary
[00:31:24.950]of Omaha's founding, the city undertook another study.
[00:31:28.280]It addressed everything again, airport, parks, recreation,
[00:31:31.790]streets, highways, and it did make recommendations
[00:31:35.950]The committee on area redevelopments focused
[00:31:38.440]on areas needing attention under the urban renewal program,
[00:31:42.040]and was based on field studies.
[00:31:45.390]The Omaha plan, however,
[00:31:46.680]was rejected at the polls by the citizens of Omaha.
[00:31:52.580]for highway construction offered an opportunity
[00:31:54.670]to improve the roads, boulevards,
[00:31:57.360]and highways when the Omaha plan was not funded.
[00:32:00.200]Work began on the North Omaha freeway
[00:32:02.330]and 480 in the early '60s
[00:32:04.100]but it would not be completed until 1984.
[00:32:08.010]Eventually, the North Freeway, which is 75 North here,
[00:32:12.010]and 480 were constructed as part of long-running plans
[00:32:14.810]to improve the city's infrastructure.
[00:32:17.350]With these maps and plans,
[00:32:18.820]Omaha is an isotropic flame that appears homogenous,
[00:32:22.810]as suggested by LIFE Magazine images also.
[00:32:25.620]A white, Midwestern town dreaming a big,
[00:32:27.660]bright future for itself with everyone pitching in.
[00:32:31.780]So now, let's complicate this narrative.
[00:32:35.910]This map of Omaha from 1932 is from a market study
[00:32:39.590]of US cities that is focused on the demographics of Omaha
[00:32:42.910]and which households received the Saturday Evening Post
[00:32:45.960]and the Ladies' Home Journal.
[00:32:48.600]The proportion of households
[00:32:49.830]that get these journals are the large numbers in the areas
[00:32:52.810]on the map, but we're more interested in smaller numbers,
[00:32:56.500]which actually tell us a little bit
[00:32:57.800]about these neighborhoods.
[00:33:00.610]So we're gonna focus on the light blue area in North Omaha
[00:33:04.557]and the light blue area in South Omaha,
[00:33:07.740]and we're gonna focus in on the information
[00:33:10.130]about the head of households.
[00:33:12.440]And what this map tells us is in North Omaha,
[00:33:15.070]20% of the families had their head
[00:33:17.330]of household foreign-born, in 54% of families,
[00:33:21.010]the head of household is colored.
[00:33:23.420]In South Omaha,
[00:33:25.130]40% of the families have head of household foreign-born
[00:33:27.937]and 26% of families have head of household of color.
[00:33:33.330]So we quickly get a sense of these particular neighborhoods
[00:33:37.190]from these very basic demographics.
[00:33:39.160]I also wanna point out that just beside the blue area
[00:33:42.900]in North Omaha, there's a red area, that is Kountze Place,
[00:33:47.470]which was on Dr. Gabriel's presentation
[00:33:50.640]with a restrictive covenant.
[00:33:52.390]In that neighborhood, 17% of families
[00:33:54.107]where the head of household was foreign-born,
[00:33:56.340]and only 1% head of household was colored.
[00:34:00.520]Now outside these areas,
[00:34:03.490]the Black population was generally 5% or less.
[00:34:07.870]Foreign-born heads of households were found
[00:34:09.920]in every part of Omaha,
[00:34:11.620]and in some neighborhoods were up to 51%.
[00:34:15.650]As a result of the Great Migration, in 1920, Omaha,
[00:34:19.180]the second largest Black population
[00:34:21.180]in the West after Los Angeles.
[00:34:24.110]And they appear to have thrived in Omaha,
[00:34:25.890]with the 1937 Works Progress Administration report
[00:34:28.790]on Omaha stating, "At the prosperity peak in 1929,
[00:34:32.443]"the Omaha group,
[00:34:33.897]"Negro group of Omaha have the highest ratio of home owners
[00:34:38.387]"and home buyers of any city in the United States,"
[00:34:43.873]I'm sorry to interrupt you,
[00:34:44.730]but your slides aren't moving forward.
[00:34:51.070]So you're not seeing the map of the,
[00:34:54.947]the colored map?
I connect to your screen,
[00:34:56.460]but the screen
[00:34:57.293]has the LIFE Magazine's "An American City's Dream" on it.
[00:35:01.920]That is the LIFE, okay, so, oh okay.
[00:35:07.220]Let me see.
[00:35:09.630]Let me stop share and come back into it.
[00:35:15.908]Thank you for letting me know.
[00:35:25.837]Okay, now what slide are you seeing?
[00:35:27.380]Are you seeing the one with the yellow and the,
[00:35:30.390]the bright yellow and the green?
[00:35:33.273]And the light blue?
[00:35:35.950]Okay, all right.
[00:35:37.730]So this is the map, (laughs) apologies, showing,
[00:35:42.400]that was the market survey based
[00:35:45.280]on the Saturday Evening Post
[00:35:46.570]and the Ladies' Home Journal, okay?
[00:35:48.540]So the light area, the light blue area in North Omaha,
[00:35:52.810]the light blue area in South Omaha,
[00:35:54.950]and then the red area adjacent
[00:35:56.750]to the light blue area in North Omaha.
[00:36:01.240]So let's move on.
[00:36:04.460]So the redlining map, everybody see the redlining map okay?
[00:36:09.230]So we've talked a little bit about redlining already.
[00:36:12.500]This map for many Americans is the redlining map,
[00:36:16.420]not this particular one, but this pattern,
[00:36:18.690]where cities are designated into categories A, B, C, D,
[00:36:25.010]with red, the least desirable, being colored red.
[00:36:29.560]This, as we've already discussed,
[00:36:31.700]was part of HOLC and FHA efforts to weigh the risk
[00:36:41.560]of these neighborhoods for home ownership loans.
[00:36:46.340]In particular, I wanna highlight
[00:36:47.600]that the FHA underwriter's manual guided the offices
[00:36:52.900]in dealing with home ownership loans.
[00:36:56.360]This manual, and included,
[00:36:58.650]there was an office here in Omaha,
[00:37:00.520]the manual as part
[00:37:02.020]of its efforts guided the home ownership loan granting,
[00:37:07.500]and this promoted racial segregation,
[00:37:10.540]the denial of home loans to racial and ethnic groups,
[00:37:14.880]promoted the use of restrictive covenants
[00:37:16.990]to exclude populations,
[00:37:18.960]and promoted the use of highways to isolate populations.
[00:37:23.130]North Omaha, Black newspapers,
[00:37:25.500]Black-owned newspapers were very concerned
[00:37:27.450]about the development of the FHA
[00:37:29.270]and covered NAACP efforts to diversify the FHA,
[00:37:36.320]calling for representation both at the federal level
[00:37:39.130]and at the regional level.
[00:37:41.800]I just wanna point out that the infamous redlining maps
[00:37:44.580]as shown here are visual representations
[00:37:47.210]of implemented policies.
[00:37:48.650]The maps themselves are very crudely done.
[00:37:51.890]They basically took an existing city map
[00:37:54.180]and crudely colored it.
[00:37:56.310]The legend at the lower right is actually hand-done.
[00:38:00.730]It was never mass produced or circulated,
[00:38:03.770]and in fact, trying to locate copies is extremely difficult.
[00:38:07.840]However, they visually captured the policies implemented
[00:38:11.170]by the HOLC and the FHA.
[00:38:15.510]So now that we have some context, we refer to the,
[00:38:19.080]we turn to the '46 plan.
[00:38:21.310]The Housing and Slum Area Elimination Committee recommended
[00:38:24.450]that North Omaha be rehabilitated
[00:38:27.300]and that the small area of a slum in South Omaha be removed,
[00:38:31.110]and these recommendations were based on survey work.
[00:38:35.430]This map of the North Side district was included
[00:38:38.640]in the '46 plan and represents a sample
[00:38:40.800]of the data they collected.
[00:38:43.343]They make a point of saying that the survey was made
[00:38:46.750]by a committee of persons residing in it,
[00:38:49.270]and resulted in seven color maps.
[00:38:52.070]In this sample map,
[00:38:53.080]we see that only 15% of the households should be condemned,
[00:38:56.840]9% need major repairs, and 25% need minor repairs.
[00:39:02.350]And the committee noted that the district believed,
[00:39:04.650]or the committee believed
[00:39:05.750]that the district could be rehabilitated and improved,
[00:39:09.660]and that this could be accomplished
[00:39:11.070]with little if any public funds.
[00:39:15.160]We haven't found the surveys,
[00:39:17.080]we're certainly looking for them,
[00:39:18.230]we're also looking for the maps that were created.
[00:39:20.093]We have also not found those.
[00:39:22.530]But the labeling on the main map of this area
[00:39:25.840]as blighted is very much contradicted by this sample map,
[00:39:30.170]which shows that in fact,
[00:39:32.230]the whole neighborhood was not blighted,
[00:39:35.700]that there was a gradation in condition,
[00:39:38.440]so clearly only a minority in need of condemning
[00:39:43.040]However, as I mentioned before,
[00:39:45.820]there was no work done on housing,
[00:39:48.940]so in essence, nothing was done.
[00:39:54.340]Kountze Place, which Dr. Gabriel mentioned earlier,
[00:39:58.240]and which I pointed out as being an area adjacent
[00:40:05.760]to North Omaha, and where we see the application
[00:40:09.320]of restrictive covenants,
[00:40:12.100]there was an effort by North Omaha citizens to speak out
[00:40:19.640]and to raise concerns over the use
[00:40:26.200]of the restrictive covenant,
[00:40:27.033]and particularly the fact that it was going to deny access
[00:40:30.480]to the schools in the neighborhood.
[00:40:32.390]And this was something that was raised
[00:40:36.150]in North Omaha newspapers, also in the Omaha World Herald,
[00:40:40.260]and they even took it to the NAACP
[00:40:42.950]to try to get some traction on this issue,
[00:40:44.710]although ultimately it does not do so.
[00:40:48.600]So with the '57 plan, we have, nationwide,
[00:40:54.830]an effort to work on urban problems.
[00:40:59.140]With the '47, '46 plan,
[00:41:01.660]they identified about 2,500 houses of concern
[00:41:05.420]whose homes needed addressing.
[00:41:07.920]With '56, we've got 8,000 homes being addressed.
[00:41:12.690]So had things really deteriorated that much in 10 years,
[00:41:15.410]or had the city expanded their definitions?
[00:41:19.950]This plan was unevenly received to say the least.
[00:41:25.630]We have found notes from a city council chamber meeting
[00:41:29.420]from '58 about the plan,
[00:41:31.660]and we have some snippets of voices of Omaha citizens
[00:41:35.780]who were opposed to it.
[00:41:36.920]So William Foley spoke at the meeting and said, quote,
[00:41:40.707]"He knows some of the places should be wiped out
[00:41:42.677]"but was pleading for those people,
[00:41:44.237]"thousands and thousands who cannot build new homes,"
[00:41:48.230]And a Mrs. John Dosey said,
[00:41:50.967]"Everyone needs some kind of a home
[00:41:52.587]"and they felt very deeply
[00:41:53.927]"that they do not want to lose theirs.
[00:41:56.187]"They are going to fight for their homes.
[00:41:58.407]"Their neighborhood is not a slum area," end quote.
[00:42:02.420]These are just but two voices.
[00:42:03.660]We hope to uncover more.
[00:42:05.910]But again, this plan was not well received.
[00:42:09.780]Only two precincts in the city of Omaha tallied votes
[00:42:12.630]in favor of the bonds,
[00:42:14.870]and there was particularly strong opposition
[00:42:16.650]in the neighborhoods that would've been impacted the most.
[00:42:20.670]This gray area on the map, this kind of almost a gargoyle,
[00:42:24.620]virtually erased communities, homes, businesses, churches,
[00:42:28.660]schools, everything within the space.
[00:42:32.370]It suggests that everything is bad, but again,
[00:42:34.610]from '46 little sample,
[00:42:36.230]we know that the conditions vary tremendously.
[00:42:41.720]So Omaha would continue
[00:42:44.250]to try to address their neighborhood redevelopment,
[00:42:48.540]and ultimately it was through federal housing funds,
[00:42:51.710]but not all Omaha residents were on board.
[00:42:54.770]Reportedly, 1,000 North Omaha residents showed up
[00:42:57.380]to local meetings to express opposition in 1966.
[00:43:02.210]A demolition began in the early '60s for the highways
[00:43:05.670]and would take out, it's estimated, 1,000 homes,
[00:43:08.440]churches, schools, and businesses.
[00:43:10.880]It would take 24 years of construction on and off
[00:43:13.570]to finally finish the project.
[00:43:17.404]A proposed western expansion expressway
[00:43:20.470]would've impacted a predominantly white neighborhood,
[00:43:22.330]and that was canceled due to resistance to its residents,
[00:43:26.070]and ultimately, it's just a trunk, a 2.5 mile trunk,
[00:43:30.960]because North Omaha,
[00:43:34.270]white neighborhoods to the north blocked the construction
[00:43:37.780]that would've linked it to the North 680,
[00:43:42.490]and as a result, it's never been extensively utilized.
[00:43:47.050]So just to kind of pull it all together,
[00:43:49.970]here we have the redlined areas
[00:43:52.390]from the original redlining map.
[00:43:55.930]This is the 1946 blighted areas.
[00:44:01.030]Here are the restrictive covenants
[00:44:02.510]that we have located so far,
[00:44:03.860]and again, our work is just beginning.
[00:44:09.000]Here is the 1957 area of concern added to the map.
[00:44:15.320]And finally, here is the location of the North Freeway
[00:44:20.720]It certainly appears that the siting
[00:44:22.500]of the freeway allowed the city to address areas
[00:44:24.910]that they consider blighted, and in the process,
[00:44:27.480]created a violent fissure in the Omaha landscape
[00:44:29.710]that continues to impact the lives of Omahans today.
[00:44:33.430]In fact, in the past year, oop, went too far,
[00:44:38.860]in the past year, both North Omaha
[00:44:40.723]and Sheelytown neighborhoods have made local news,
[00:44:43.860]North Omaha for a proposed removal of the North highway
[00:44:46.740]and the creation of a community-centered redevelopment,
[00:44:50.290]and Sheelytown for proposed development project
[00:44:52.870]that has upset remaining residents who cry gentrification
[00:44:56.010]and further erasure of their neighborhood,
[00:44:57.800]and I should've mentioned earlier
[00:44:58.950]that the very small redlined neighborhood
[00:45:01.640]in the middle of the redlining map is actually Sheelytown
[00:45:04.670]which is the Polish district.
[00:45:06.700]So this is just the start of our work on Omaha.
[00:45:10.010]In addition to work on restrictive covenants,
[00:45:12.870]we hope to continue the work on neighborhoods erased
[00:45:16.510]by the construction of 475 North and 480.
[00:45:21.210]We'd like to create an inventory of exactly what was lost,
[00:45:24.130]how many homes?
[00:45:24.963]How many schools?
[00:45:26.600]How many churches?
[00:45:27.433]How many businesses?
[00:45:28.930]And what was the value of these lost properties?
[00:45:31.990]On the WPA report
[00:45:33.440]from 1937 said home ownership among Black Omahans was one
[00:45:36.660]of the highest in the country.
[00:45:38.620]How did the erasure of neighborhoods
[00:45:40.710]in North and South Omaha impact the rates of home ownership?
[00:45:44.340]What are the long-term implications?
[00:45:46.100]If they owned their homes before,
[00:45:47.530]were they able to own homes afterwards?
[00:45:51.200]Ideally, we'd like to add an oral history component,
[00:45:53.350]balance the hard data with the voices
[00:45:55.500]of those families who were impacted.
[00:45:57.810]And we'd like to restore, if possible,
[00:46:00.650]if you'd like the view shed,
[00:46:01.990]so that right now those neighborhoods are wiped out,
[00:46:04.580]but what, can we use air photos
[00:46:06.520]to just kind of fill in this landscape
[00:46:08.440]and give a sense
[00:46:09.273]of what these communities looked at once upon a time?
[00:46:13.260]LIFE Magazine described the 1957 Omaha plan
[00:46:16.260]as an old-fashioned democratic effort
[00:46:18.640]to make their city better, but better for who?
[00:46:22.000]A North Omaha editorial pointed out that the vicious menace
[00:46:25.350]of restrictive covenants is being carried out
[00:46:27.370]by those who profess love for their great
[00:46:29.610]and vast United States and its democratic way of life.
[00:46:33.320]It's important we acknowledge our history,
[00:46:35.990]Omaha's history and the history
[00:46:37.300]of discriminatory housing practices,
[00:46:39.370]if we are ever to find a way to lift all Omahans
[00:46:41.980]and truly create, as the '57 writers praised it,
[00:46:45.930]a far better place to live for all.
[00:46:49.120]Working together, we can take historic maps such as these
[00:46:51.650]and put them to work to fight racism inequality
[00:46:54.460]in what we hope become acts of restorative cartography,
[00:46:57.810]and perhaps find a way forward
[00:46:59.290]to repair the violent fissure of the Omaha landscape.
[00:47:03.730]Jeannette, are you going to take over?
[00:47:06.110]Actually I think since we started late,
[00:47:08.155]in the interest of time,
[00:47:09.170]perhaps we should open it up to Q&A at this point.
[00:47:13.950]I think that's a good idea, but first of all,
[00:47:16.350]let's give them a virtual round of applause.
[00:47:19.470]If we were in person, I think we'd be doing it for real,
[00:47:23.210]but absolutely fascinating presentations
[00:47:27.270]from all three of you,
[00:47:28.320]but I do agree that we could move onto some questions
[00:47:33.140]and try to squeeze them in.
[00:47:34.620]The next block of concurrent sessions doesn't start
[00:47:37.470]until one o'clock, so we do have a little bit of time,
[00:47:40.590]but of course we want people to be able
[00:47:42.470]to eat (chuckles) and catch your breath
[00:47:45.120]and that sort of thing, so we will,
[00:47:47.191]if you're all comfortable, open it up to questions.
[00:47:51.860]And we can just, since there's an intimate group of us,
[00:47:56.860]you can raise your hand,
[00:47:59.380]jump into empty silence if you need to,
[00:48:02.530]or if you wanna put it in the chat,
[00:48:03.980]I'll catch them in the chat as well.
[00:48:07.640]So I see a raised hand.
[00:48:09.390]Lori, do you want to voice your question?
[00:48:17.690]So thank you very much for this fascinating project.
[00:48:22.850]I think you guys are doing some really important work,
[00:48:26.060]and just for context,
[00:48:28.640]because the questions I think probably,
[00:48:30.670]or at least one of them connected to what appeared to be
[00:48:34.290]on the next slide.
[00:48:35.470]I'm in the History department
[00:48:36.980]at Minnesota State University, Mankato,
[00:48:39.320]and we are engaged in a similar kind of project in Mankato,
[00:48:43.120]although very different because the Black population
[00:48:47.220]in Mankato has historically,
[00:48:49.530]during the period that we're really looking at
[00:48:51.580]until more recently, been relatively small.
[00:48:55.434]So my questions with that,
[00:48:58.740]what are you doing in terms of student engagement,
[00:49:02.240]because we're actively trying to bring students in,
[00:49:04.417]and so we're looking for ideas,
[00:49:06.790]and then it looked like you're also engaged
[00:49:08.760]with community partners
[00:49:11.070]and our project is very much set up that it's community,
[00:49:17.860]university, and the community is a central part,
[00:49:22.230]and I was just wondering
[00:49:23.063]if you could talk a little bit about that.
[00:49:27.270]I'll jump in here real quick.
[00:49:29.140]We have engaged a community research work model based
[00:49:34.410]around crowd sourcing methodology,
[00:49:37.160]so the first step is that we engaged support
[00:49:39.940]from community partner organizations.
[00:49:43.190]And then building off that support from a variety
[00:49:46.030]of community-based and civic organizations,
[00:49:50.690]we are going to develop a collaboration
[00:49:53.690]employing crowd sourcing methodology
[00:49:55.560]which means that we are directly engaging community members
[00:50:00.610]in looking at the restrictive covenants with us,
[00:50:04.280]and we think this will serve a couple of different purposes.
[00:50:08.160]Many, many people have told us
[00:50:10.840]that they know there were racially restrictive covenants
[00:50:13.460]on their homes, and yet,
[00:50:15.600]when they attempt to find them
[00:50:17.780]or tell us where they might be, they cannot be found,
[00:50:21.660]so we really feel strongly that being able
[00:50:26.320]to have these covenants plays an important act of witnessing
[00:50:29.990]and documenting not just the language of racism,
[00:50:34.150]but also the practice of institutional racism.
[00:50:38.930]So by actually viewing the covenants together,
[00:50:41.740]it serves the purpose
[00:50:43.130]of acknowledging not just a single covenant
[00:50:45.540]or a few covenants like we showed you today,
[00:50:47.840]but the widespread and institutional power
[00:50:50.890]of these documents in restricting people's lives,
[00:50:54.520]and documenting this legacy for future generations
[00:50:57.480]by having that community outreach
[00:50:59.640]and engagement directly
[00:51:01.080]with the documentation we think contributes
[00:51:04.230]to a powerful act of remembering and bearing witness,
[00:51:07.800]not just for those who are negatively impacted
[00:51:10.190]by the covenants,
[00:51:11.290]but also for families who benefited from them.
[00:51:15.530]And if I can just jump in and fill it out,
[00:51:18.170]when we skipped those last slides,
[00:51:19.990]we also didn't talk about what the big goal is.
[00:51:23.210]As much as we are studying
[00:51:25.190]and looking at these spatial injustices,
[00:51:28.710]we are actually creating a database
[00:51:31.070]that will be publicly available so that it's going to be,
[00:51:35.920]as much as we are all historians in our own rights,
[00:51:39.270]we're not just carrying out a history project
[00:51:42.370]that we're going to publish and them move away from.
[00:51:44.250]Instead, we are creating a community resource,
[00:51:46.360]a database of restrictive covenants
[00:51:48.490]that can be combined with other data such as public health,
[00:51:55.370]finance, education, and that we will make available,
[00:52:01.020]we hope, the plan is, once we get the database constructed,
[00:52:04.950]through the public, well, the Omaha, through UNO's library,
[00:52:10.230]so that it will be available not only to other researchers
[00:52:12.750]at the university, but also to members
[00:52:15.240]of the Omaha community who wish to use this data
[00:52:18.290]to advance their interests.
[00:52:21.370]So we envision a long-running project
[00:52:24.764]that has as its core a community resource,
[00:52:28.890]as well as getting the community involved
[00:52:30.630]in helping us identify these restrictive covenants,
[00:52:32.200]because it is a daunting task.
[00:52:35.210]We were inspired by the Mapping Prejudice project
[00:52:37.830]at the University of Minnesota,
[00:52:39.500]as well as a similar project, although different,
[00:52:42.870]at the University of Washington, and of course,
[00:52:45.460]the excellent work being done at the University of Richmond.
[00:52:50.230]I'll just maybe follow up on that, because there are,
[00:52:53.340]that we know of, 13 of these projects in Minnesota
[00:52:58.004]that are ongoing
[00:52:59.460]and of course the Mapping Minnesota project grew out
[00:53:02.360]of the Historyapolis Project
[00:53:03.990]and so there's a long history in Minnesota,
[00:53:08.800]but one of the things that's kind of central
[00:53:10.630]to what we're trying to do is we're hoping
[00:53:13.210]to get these restrictive,
[00:53:16.720]racially restrictive covenants removed from the deeds,
[00:53:22.250]and so I think our plan is we're hoping maybe this fall
[00:53:28.830]to try to get the first one removed,
[00:53:33.690]and I know that that's a feature of at least some
[00:53:37.770]of the projects,
[00:53:38.890]actually maybe most of the projects in Minnesota.
[00:53:42.230]Is that something you all are engaged with too
[00:53:45.250]or not really?
[00:53:49.800]No, I think this is actually a really interesting point.
[00:53:52.530]I know there's a lot of focus on this in Washington State.
[00:53:56.490]It sorta ties into broader questions
[00:53:59.280]of what do we do about these historical remnants
[00:54:04.690]of really extreme institutional discrimination?
[00:54:12.440]Perhaps my position isn't very popular,
[00:54:14.990]but I would argue that my engagement in this project,
[00:54:19.810]even though I've been interested in this topic
[00:54:21.510]for years and years, came out
[00:54:22.890]of the community Tri-Faith Religious Justice Task Force
[00:54:29.170]asking about questions around reparations,
[00:54:32.000]and how such documentation around a claim
[00:54:35.370]of reparations could be constructed,
[00:54:38.320]and it really struck me
[00:54:39.520]that that documentation does not actually exist.
[00:54:42.600]And the racially restrictive covenants provide us
[00:54:45.570]with data to document that,
[00:54:48.100]so I'm not sure that I would be in favor of removing,
[00:54:53.970]it would part of an interesting conversation, right?
[00:54:57.320]Because this type
[00:54:58.880]of documentation exposes deeply rooted practices,
[00:55:03.960]and it would be interesting to have a conversation
[00:55:06.200]of the pros and cons of that.
[00:55:10.330]Don, did I see you had your hand up for a question?
[00:55:13.770]Actually it's a two-part question,
[00:55:15.320]and yes, I did have my hand up.
[00:55:18.260]The first question is,
[00:55:20.080]would any of the panelists have any comments
[00:55:23.530]about this recently released urban redevelopment plan
[00:55:32.640]that would take major steps toward removing some
[00:55:37.820]of these infrastructure barriers that were erected
[00:55:41.960]in the '60s?
[00:55:43.990]And the second thing is,
[00:55:46.260]would any of the panelists have any comments
[00:55:50.660]about almost 100 years of silence
[00:55:55.400]from the UNO campus administration
[00:55:58.710]and its predecessor municipal university
[00:56:02.370]over apartheid policies in Omaha?
[00:56:12.260]Is that the answer?
No, I'll jump in here.
[00:56:16.723]I know you're
No, we're not shocked,
[00:56:18.883]we are historians.
[00:56:22.320]I think our colleagues, there are colleagues on campus
[00:56:26.220]who are much more involved
[00:56:27.810]in sort of the ongoing municipal redevelopment over in CPACS
[00:56:33.790]and I'm sure they would have something to say on that.
[00:56:36.430]We're really focused on the historic piece.
[00:56:39.570]In terms of the role of UNO,
[00:56:41.430]I think it's important to mention and document, absolutely,
[00:56:46.010]and this is, we hope,
[00:56:48.280]the beginning of the university's commitment
[00:56:50.880]by developing this strategic investment
[00:56:53.500]around social justice, inequality, race, and class,
[00:56:56.410]and by investing in this project,
[00:57:00.300]we expect that this is a first step of the university
[00:57:05.840]in coming to terms with that history.
[00:57:09.320]It will certainly come out as part of our project.
[00:57:17.380]And just to kind of fill in a little bit,
[00:57:19.800]I had skipped over this in my presentation due
[00:57:21.970]to time constraints, we are very much aware
[00:57:26.130]and in fact I normally do talk about the fact
[00:57:28.360]that UNO began in North Omaha,
[00:57:31.070]but in the Kountze Place area,
[00:57:33.270]the area that we showed as one of the examples
[00:57:35.010]of restrictive covenants, and that they moved to,
[00:57:39.210]well, what was at the time West Omaha, into an area that is,
[00:57:44.430]on the redlining map,
[00:57:45.880]literally a green area right under the A in West Omaha,
[00:57:50.900]so we definitely moved at a point
[00:57:53.810]when these restrictive covenants were starting
[00:57:55.460]to come into play, and certainly,
[00:58:00.170]we have to acknowledge our own history,
I would just add, Chris,
[00:58:05.020]that in addition to UNO,
[00:58:07.000]there's also significant involvement by Creighton.
[00:58:14.420]And in the, I mean sometimes universities and colleges,
[00:58:18.720]the communities kind of need
[00:58:20.030]to be led by their faculty members into these discussions.
[00:58:26.630]Yale created a whole report about all the money
[00:58:30.460]that it had made from slavery many, many years ago,
[00:58:32.780]so I mean this is kind of how it proceeds, so if sometimes,
[00:58:41.030]we have excellent historical amnesia in America,
[00:58:44.430]so we're trying to do some repair work there
[00:58:48.230]to kind of get that history straight.
[00:58:56.455]Any other questions for our panelists?
[00:59:02.666]Oh, fascinating job, great job everybody.
[00:59:05.700]Oh, and hi to Mankato.
[00:59:07.040]I'm usually up there at my NALS conference every spring
[00:59:10.590]and (laughs) we're missing it.
[00:59:13.870]But so as a friend and to Chris in particular
[00:59:18.730]and working with the Native American community here
[00:59:21.750]in Omaha, and having a little bit of conversation
[00:59:25.230]about how there's a big overlap
[00:59:27.010]in some of these districts that've been redlined,
[00:59:30.800]and I just now happened to think
[00:59:33.430]that perhaps another angle on this would be
[00:59:36.990]to look at the Ponca's Tribe restoration,
[00:59:41.300]because they were terminated in the state of Nebraska
[00:59:44.670]in 1960, '62, was officially completed in '62,
[00:59:49.990]and then in their process of being restored,
[00:59:54.900]were re-recognized in 1990 but in the meantime,
[00:59:57.410]they lost everything, and the service areas
[01:00:02.640]and that were created in the city of Omaha, mean they were,
[01:00:06.020]some elsewheres in addition to that, but I just wonder,
[01:00:09.759]I mean there's a big exchange of land going on
[01:00:13.143]in those decades,
[01:00:15.140]and I just wonder if the tribe itself maybe has a little bit
[01:00:18.670]of documentation that overlaps with what you're doing
[01:00:20.873]on these covenants and such, but it's just a thought,
[01:00:26.700]and I'm always trying to,
[01:00:28.860]I know I've talked to some Native American community members
[01:00:33.420]who do recall seeing similar kinds of covenants
[01:00:40.270]and redlining issues,
[01:00:41.640]so when you're ready to start adding to your job, (chuckles)
[01:00:46.290]just let me know.
[01:00:47.123]But great work, thanks.
[01:00:48.810]That's exciting, thank you.
[01:00:50.450]And just to follow up, we do, thanks to Barbara,
[01:00:54.500]we were made aware of an area,
[01:00:56.970]so when I was talking about the highways, 480,
[01:01:00.070]the construction of 480 actually took out a neighborhood
[01:01:02.900]that was predominantly Native American
[01:01:04.820]called Jefferson Square, sorry,
[01:01:09.360]and I have a graduate student here in geography
[01:01:12.380]that is going to be doing an oral history project
[01:01:15.300]on Jefferson Square,
[01:01:16.310]so we're looking at gathering more information
[01:01:18.290]about the erasure of that community also.
[01:01:21.710]And I will say, building on the question
[01:01:24.420]of student engagement,
[01:01:26.250]I have students reaching out all the time.
[01:01:28.390]I had a student in my office yesterday asking
[01:01:30.270]about doing research
[01:01:32.860]with the Native American community around this erasure,
[01:01:35.130]so I think there's a great deal of interest.
[01:01:38.860]And we should mention that we have a sister project
[01:01:41.380]that is through our Service Learning Academy
[01:01:44.120]that is building a community group that will talk
[01:01:48.650]about the long-term implications of redlining and the,
[01:01:54.210]what could be done in terms of thinking
[01:01:58.100]about the presentation earlier this morning on covenants.
[01:02:03.330]I just have one question, and it's probably a simple one.
[01:02:06.360]Is there anything available currently through UNO's library
[01:02:11.030]to access this material,
[01:02:13.080]or is that a future part of the project?
[01:02:21.040]So we have been working,
[01:02:25.550]trying to access these restrictive covenants is a challenge.
[01:02:30.375]We had talks
[01:02:31.510]with the University of Minnesota's Mapping Prejudice
[01:02:34.110]which is probably one of the largest,
[01:02:35.730]most successful of these projects, however,
[01:02:39.710]the situation varies by the city.
[01:02:43.320]And accessing them here in Omaha is nowhere near as simple
[01:02:49.040]as it was in the Twin Cities.
[01:02:52.070]So we are slowly but surely making headway
[01:02:56.930]in gathering the information.
[01:02:59.130]Like I said, we only have five for sure right now,
[01:03:01.570]but we are in the process of trying to do this, again,
[01:03:03.970]we're trying to do, these restrictive covenants,
[01:03:08.340]as much as people encounter them attached
[01:03:10.300]to their deeds when they purchase a home, in the database,
[01:03:14.710]they are separate documents,
[01:03:16.290]and so we're having to do basically a massive scraping
[01:03:20.130]of the deeds database
[01:03:23.320]to try to locate these restrictive covenants,
[01:03:27.030]which tend to be written in terms of a subdivision
[01:03:30.470]or a neighborhood,
[01:03:32.440]and so this is taking a lot longer than we anticipated,
[01:03:35.990]although we knew it was going to be a massive task
[01:03:38.120]because theoretically, we could be looking
[01:03:40.280]at these restrictive covenants covering 30, 40,
[01:03:44.011]50,000 homes in Omaha.
[01:03:46.350]So it's taking us time to build it up, so no,
[01:03:49.270]we right now do not have anything available.
[01:03:52.940]Again, it's taking us a lot longer.
[01:03:55.460]I would say the interest
[01:03:56.650]in this project is going faster than we have,
[01:04:01.680]we've been able to do the research, but that's a good thing.
[01:04:05.090]We're really excited by the dedication
[01:04:07.430]of the Omaha community.
[01:04:08.730]We have a tremendous amount of community support
[01:04:11.700]from City Hall through the entirety of Omaha,
[01:04:15.730]and also across campus,
[01:04:17.100]and so that for us is very exciting because again,
[01:04:19.840]we envision this as a long-term research group,
[01:04:23.160]if you like, that we hope to create,
[01:04:25.210]and that will facilitate work on spatial justice in Omaha.
[01:04:30.339]I think that's fantastic.
[01:04:32.020]And you may have seen me react when you mentioned, Chris,
[01:04:36.010]oral histories as part of the future.
[01:04:38.588]That's something I'm very interested in, so.
[01:04:44.550]Okay, I see Katie has dropped in the link
[01:04:46.910]for the rest of the schedule for today,
[01:04:49.760]so as I said, the sessions pick back up again
[01:04:53.840]at one o'clock.
[01:04:55.670]Thank you again to our fabulous panelists,
[01:04:59.280]virtual round of applause,
[01:05:01.500]and thank you all for coming and for putting up
[01:05:04.120]with the technical difficulties
[01:05:06.030]at the beginning of our session,
[01:05:07.420]so that is all for this session.
[01:05:12.100]Thank you all for being here,
[01:05:13.740]and we'll see you in some of the oncoming sessions.
(calm acoustic guitar music)
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