January 15 marks the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. A national holiday since 1983, Martin Luther King Jr. Day honors the legacy of the Baptist minister who advanced the civil rights movement in America using nonviolent civil disobedience as a foundation. One of the core inequities that King sought to remedy was segregation. While much of segregation in the United States was state enforced, it was already significantly ingrained within culture and society, and the battles to undo its influences and effects had been raging for over half a century.
The Story Map, Mapping Segregation in Washington DC, shows the history of what was known as racially restrictive covenants in property deeds, which then expanded to neighborhood-wide petition covenants. These signed, legally binding, contractual agreements governing real estate deals, officially restricted the race of the signer. These agreements led to entire neighborhoods becoming effectively white-only zones where black and other minority buyers could not penetrate the market.
This story map by Esri Partner JMT Technology Group shows the legal challenges on behalf of, and finally challenging restrictive covenants that lasted from the turn of the century up until 1948. The Supreme Court finally ruled the agreements unenforceable based on the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the first U.S. federal law to affirm that all citizens, regardless of race, are equally protected under the law.
Learn more about the long fight to end segregation in America: Mapping Segregation in Washington DC Story Map