Mapping Prejudice: Housing Discrimination and Segregation

A collection of resources for researching topics related to housing discrimination and segregation in the United States.

Welcome to this guide

This is a companion resource guide for the Mapping Prejudice project. Mapping Prejudice is a community action research project housed in the University of Minnesota Libraries which works with community partners to identify and map racial covenants and clauses in property deeds. These covenants and clauses were inserted into property deeds to prevent home owners from selling or renting to people who were not White. Through this work of exposing structural racism, reparative action can begin.

In this guide you will find resources, tips, and strategies to learn more about racial and ethnic discrimination and segregation in housing. The guide is intended to provide an overview of the topic area and possible pathways for diving deeper into several facets of the topic. 

Where possible the links provided are easily accessible and open to the public. For resources that are not free and open to the public, strategies for finding and gaining access have been provided.

This is such a big topic, we cannot possibly list all of the resources you will find useful in this guide. Instead of trying to provide a list of everything, the guide contains good places to start. The guide is organized in a way that starts with gaining a basic understanding of the topic. The focus shifts to finding and using different types of resources (academic article databases, newspapers, archives) as you scroll down the page.

Key terms and definitions

Structural racism

A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist.  - The Aspen Institute

Historical and present day housing discrimination and segregation is one of those structures that reinforce and perpetuate racial and ethnic inequity.

Housing discrimination and residential segregation

Housing discrimination is the historical and current barriers, policies, and practices that prevent people from renting, selling, or buying a property based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including gender, gender identity, sexual orientation), familial status, and disability. While housing discrimination is currently illegal it still happens and discriminatory practices of the past have left a lasting legacy of geographic segregation. The effects of housing discrimination and segregation result in inequality in education, wealth distribution, and health disparities.

Research on this topic spans many traditional disciplines and interdisciplinary fields using methods and theories from areas such as economics, geography, law, medicine, history, sociology, social work, public policy, urban studies, and arts and humanities. 

This guide focuses on housing discrimination based on ethnic and racial identity. 

Racial covenants and redlining

Racial covenants are clauses inserted into property deeds to prevent people who were not White from buying or occupying the land. Racial covenants led to residential segregation which in turn laid the groundwork for redlining practices.

Redlining is a blanket term widely used to describe a constellation of discriminatory lending practices. It is the practice of withholding financial and mortgage lending services from people residing in neighborhoods classified as "hazardous" to investment.

Background resources and entry points

Watch the entire series at a UMN campus library or (if UMN affiliate) from your own computer.

Research projects uncovering racial covenants

These community action research projects are doing work similar to Mapping Prejudice. By using geographic information system software (GIS) to map racial covenants and make plain the impacts of housing discrimination practices they hope to build a path to reparations.  

Digital projects, exhibits, and educational materials

Selected books

Accessing books on this list

The links below the description of each book will take you to either the WorldCat entry for the specified format of the book or the UMN library catalog.

If you are not a UMN affiliate you can use the WorldCat link to find the closest library to you with the book. If there are no copies owned by your public library or another library you are affiliated with you can request a print copy* using interlibrary loan through your local library. Another option is to visit the UMN Libraries to access and use books onsite. 

*Note that audio and e-book formats may not be available through interlibrary loan due to licensing restrictions.

Search terms and strategies

Search terms and keywords

The resources provided in this guide are only a starting point. You can find more information, specific to the concepts or approaches you are most interested in, by searching databases and the internet.

Whether you are searching in library databases, the library catalog, Google Scholar, or just plain Google, creating a good search query will help you to find relevant information. General terms work well when starting your research. Be sure to take note of additional terms and concepts that come up in your search results. You can try these in future searches.  

*Please note that some terms used to describe racial and ethnic concepts and related areas, especially historical and older resources, may be offensive and outdated. 

  • Housing segregation
  • Residential segregation
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Gentrification
  • Redlining
  • Discriminatory mortgage lending
  • Federal Housing Administration
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Segregated cities
  • Zoning policies
  • Reverse redlining
  • Predatory lending
  • Racial wealth gap
  • Black homeownership gap
  • Discrimination and appraisals - devaluation
  • Housing inequality
  • Property ownership

Subject Headings

Subject headings are specific terms in databases and catalogs used to categorize concepts and topics. They can be particularly helpful when searching library catalogs, archives, databases, and digital collections. You can pair a subject heading search with additional topics, events, and concepts like education, law, history, health care, and policy.

Each item on the bulleted list below links to the UMN Libraries Search by subject heading.

Creating a search query

For databases and search engines (Google, Google Scholar, Safari, DuckDuckGo) you can combine search terms using specific rules to write a search query that will improve your search results. These rules are:

  • Use quotation marks to search multiple words together as a phrase, ex. "housing discrimination" 
  • Use the word AND to link together concepts, ex. "housing discrimination" AND race
  • Use the word OR to search for synonyms, ex. "housing discrimination" OR "residential segregation"

Academic articles

Finding research articles can be done a few different ways. Start by using Libraries Search (anyone can search the UMN Libraries catalog) or Google Scholar. 

Using a specific database can help to focus your search results. Most of the databases listed below are paid for by the UMN Libraries. Licensing for subscription databases restricts off-campus access to UMN students, faculty, and staff. The general public can access these databases by using a public computer at one of the UMN campus libraries. 

More ways to find and access articles:

  • Check with your local public library (Hennepin Country Public Library, Ramsey County Public Library, Saint Paul Public Library), nearby state-funded university, or affiliated institution to learn what article databases you may have access to. 
  • Use Google Scholar to run searches and access openly available copies of articles. 
  • Use the UMN Libraries Search to find articles (anyone can use it). While it is limited to items in the UMN catalog, it has advanced search and filtering capabilities beyond Google Scholar. Once you find the title of an article you want, go to Google Scholar to try to find an open version or click the Unpaywall link in the UMN catalog record to find an openly available version.
  • If all else fails, send an email to the lead author on the article and ask for a copy.

Openly accessible databases

Subscription databases requiring on-campus use or UMN affiliation for off-campus use

Newspaper databases

Similar to article databases, newspaper databases also require the library to pay a subscription fee and meet licensing requirements which prevent us from providing access to these databases for the general public from off-campus. If you are not affiliated with the UMN you can access the subscription databases from a public computer in one of the campus libraries. 

Newspaper articles can be particularly useful when researching local events and opinions. For this reason, it is often useful to look at newspapers operating in a specific locality. Often public libraries in the same geographic area covered by the newspaper will have past issues that can be accessed (either via a database, CD ROM, or microfilm).

Openly available digital collections of newspapers

Subscription databases requiring on-campus use or UMN affiliation for off-campus use

Primary sources and archival materials

Mapping Prejudice and many of the other projects looking at racially restrictive covenants draw upon archival sources in the form of property deeds. You may want to use archival sources in your research or project. 

What can you find in an archive?

Archival collections include meeting minutes, correspondence, financial records, photographs, digital files, video recordings, memorabilia, and other historical materials that describe or belong to a place, institution, or group of people. Many items in an archival collection may not be digitized and will require you to visit them in person. Often an appointment is required or recommended.

UMN Archives and Special Collections

The University of Minnesota has several special and archival collections that may relate to your specific topic. The UMN archives and special collections are open for anyone to use. Appointments are required. Contact with questions and to schedule an appointment.

Complete the Start Your Research in the Archives with Primary Source Documents tutorial to learn more about how you can find and use archival materials.

Some collections at UMN that may be useful:

Learn about and search all UMN Archives and Special Collections.

Digital and print archives 

The archival collections and search engines below are listed from having the most broad level (national/U.S.) to the most narrow level of coverage (county/community). This list is not exhaustive but hopefully, gives you ideas of where to look for archival collections that fit your research needs.


Your public library

Local public libraries have books, newspapers, magazines, reference materials, historical collections and archival materials (typically focused on the surrounding community) and more! 

Last Updated: Jan 24, 2024 11:21 AM