Racial covenants are still on the books in some Wyoming communities

There are still at least 30 racial unions in Laramie County.

Neighborhood contracts set rules for how homeowners can use their properties. This could include what color you can paint your home, whether or not you can operate a business on the property, and so on.

Homeowners’ associations say the agreements are necessary to protect neighborhood home values ​​and make residents comfortable.

But neighborhoods have for decades used racial alliances to exclude blacks and other people of color.

More broadly, this hampered their ability to build wealth and good credit.

Although no longer legal, it is not uncommon to find racial conventions in old neighborhood documents.

Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County aims to raise awareness of, and encourage the elimination of, the racial bonds that are still on the books in Cheyenne and across the state.

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It is hosting a town hall meeting on October 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the David R. Romero Community Center. The meeting is free and public.

Special projects coordinator Dan Dorsch said he discovered about 35 cases of racial alliances in Laramie County when reviewing neighborhood records.

Take a 1926 charter for Cheyenne’s Moore Haven Heights subdivision:

“This lot is being sold with the express promise that it will not be sold to anyone of the N***o race or to anyone who is not of the Caucasian race,” the document reads.

Racial alliances became popular after the 1917 US Supreme Court ruling declaring city segregation ordinances illegal.

In 1948, the US Supreme Court declared the agreements unenforceable. Then, in 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act made them completely illegal.

However, this did not require neighborhoods with existing racial alliances to change their language. Some of them still have them even after more than 50 years.

People who buy homes in this neighborhood still have to read them when they sit down to sign their deeds.

In 2021, the Wyoming Legislature passed legislation making it easier to lift the covenants.

Changing the neighborhood rules would normally require collecting signatures from a certain number of households in the subdivision.

But under the new law, if a neighborhood has an agreement that is unenforceable or unconstitutional, any property owner, attorney, title insurance company or title insurance agent can contact the County Clerk’s office to change it.

The legislation was sponsored by Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, a real estate agent.

“I actually had some customers who sat at the table with me and they had to read through the racist covenants that literally said people of color had to come in from the back of the house,” she told lawmakers in 2021.

Bill to repeal racial covenants passes second reading in Wyoming House

Many real estate contracts still contain discriminatory texts prohibiting people of color from owning or occupying houses. The Supreme Court declared the agreements unenforceable in 1948, but the exclusionary language remains.

Some people fear that breaking racial covenants will erase history, Dorsch said at a state-run Habitat for Humanity conference last month.

“And that’s not true,” he said. “These are always archived. It’s just the new version without the covenant or without the language.”

In some places, the easiest way to find alliances is through the district secretary’s office. To find out how many racial unions are in your area, you would have to browse through them in person.

But there are also ways to find them online. First American Title has agreements for 17 counties in Wyoming uploaded to its website. This is how Dorsch identified the over 30 racial covenants in Laramie County.

The site also includes scans of agreements for Albany, Campbell, Carbon, Converse, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Johnson, Natrona, Niobrara, Park, Platte, Sublette, Sweetwater, Uinta, and Weston counties.

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