Takoma Park Covenants Project

Historic Takoma’s Covenant project seeks to understand and address the history of racially restrictive covenants in the City of Takoma Park, Maryland. The project consists of three principal components: (1) Locating properties with racially restrictive covenants, (2) Assisting property owners with removing those covenants, and (3) Maintaining a register of properties that have had racially restrictive covenants removed.

A Brief History of Racially Restrictive Covenants

Racially restrictive covenants on property began appearing in the U.S. in the late 19th century. These covenants in deeds prohibited the sale, purchase, lease and other occupancy of property by African Americans. Similar covenants target various religious and ethnic groups.

Racial covenants became widespread in the early to mid 20th century in reaction to the Great Migration of Southern Blacks and to a Supreme Court decision that ruled that racial zoning by municipalities was unconstitutional. Racial covenants became more common after the Court validated their use in 1926. In 1948 the Supreme Court that these were unconstitutional and unenforceable. However, they remain on property records until removed.1


Racially restrictive covenants differ from “redlining” which was the “practice of denying people access to credit because of where they live, even if they are personally qualified for loans.”2

Redlining — both as a term and a practice — is often cited as originating with the Federal Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a government agency created during the 1930s New Deal that aided homeowners who were in default on their mortgages and in foreclosure. HOLC created a system to assess the risk of lending money for mortgage loans within particular neighborhoods in 239 cities. Color-coded maps were created and used to decide whether properties in that area were good candidates for loans and investment. The colors — from green to blue to yellow to red — indicated the lending risk level for properties. Areas outlined in red were regarded as “hazardous” (that is, high risk) — hence, the term “redlining.”3

Redlining was common in many areas, but no redlining maps in Washington DC or adjacent Maryland have been found.4

Learn More

For more information about the history of racially restrictive covenants and redlining see the Bibliography and Resources below.

Racially Restrictive Covenants in Takoma Park

The first known racially restrictive covenant in Takoma Park was applied to a property in the Hillcrest subdivision in 1911. More followed in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s including in new subdivisions such as Glaizewood Manor and Hillwood Manor where covenants covered the entire subdivisions. In other subdivisions many, but not all, properties were sold with racially restrictive covenants. In general, properties in the early Takoma Park subdivisions that were mostly created in the 1880s and 1890s by B.F. Gilbert do not have racially restrictive covenants. However, some later owners did attach these covenants to some properties in those subdivisions.

The Montgomery County Planning Office Mapping Segregation Project has identified racially restrictive covenants throughout the downcounty area. These are shown on the project’s interactive map. The map shows subdivisions where racially restrictive covenants were found. Note that (as described above) in some cases entire subdivisions are covered by a declaration or deed, but often only some properties within a subdivision have a covenant. The map does not show the individual covenants. 

Historic Takoma has compiled a list of locations (both subdivisions and individual properties) known to have racially restrictive covenants in Takoma Park. That list can be found here.

Removing Racially Restrictive Covenants

Although no longer enforceable, racially restrictive covenants remain attached to property deeds throughout Montgomery County. The State of Maryland provides a process for property owners to remove these covenants. The removal is recorded in the county’s land records, just as a sale, mortgage, right-of-way agreement, and other actions are recorded. The process does not remove the original covenant from the land record, but records that the covenant no longer applies.

The process for removing covenants requires filing two forms with the Montgomery County Circuit Court at no cost.

See Historic Takoma’s guide, Removing Racially Restrictive Covenants in Takoma Park, Maryland, for instructions for preparing and submitting these two forms. This guide focuses specifically on Takoma Park properties. A similar guide, Removing Racially Restrictive Covenants in Montgomery County, provides information useful to those outside of Takoma Park.

Register of Covenants Removed in Takoma Park

Removing racially restrictive covenants takes place property by property. There’s no easy way to keep overall track of where these covenants have been removed. As part of the Covenants Project, Historic Takoma is keeping a register of racially restrictive covenants removed from properties in the City of Takoma Park. Historic Takoma encourages property owners in Takoma Park who have removed racially restrictive covenants to register the removal in Historic Takoma’s Covenant Removal Register.

To register the removal of a racially restrictive covenant, use this form.

Workshop Slides – March 26, 2024

The slides from the workshop presentation on March 26 are available here.

Bibliography and Resources

Much has been written about the history and use of racially restrictive covenants in the United States and the associated practice of redlining. These references provide a start for learning more.

General/Overview Articles and Sources

Racial Covenants and Segregation, Yesterday and Today, Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice. A detailed academic paper on the history of racial covenants.

Racially Restrictive Covenants in the United States: A Call to Action, Nancy H Welsh. This paper examines the history and structure of racially restrictive covenants in the United States to better comprehend their continued existence, despite their illegality.

Mapping Prejudice – What is a Covenant, University of Minnesota. A good overview of the history and use of covenants along with maps of areas covered by covenants in the Minneapolis area.

Historical Shift from Explicit to Implicit Policies Affecting Housing Segregation in Eastern Massachusetts,  The Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston. A timeline of court decisions, policies, and legislation focussing on the Boston area.

Maryland and Washington Area

Mapping Segregation in Washington DC, Prolog DC. Background, history, maps, and resources related to racial covenants in Washington, DC

Mapping Segregation in Montgomery County, Montgomery County Planning Office. Background on segregation in Montgomery County with maps showing the location of racial covenants and frequently asked questions about racial covenants.


The Ugly History of Redlining: A Federal Policy ‘Full of Evil’, Russell Fowler, Tennessee Bar Association

Federal Reserve History. A short history of federal agency practices and laws about use of redlining

Mapping Segregation in Washington DC. History and use of redlining in Washington, DC

Mapping Segregation in Montgomery County History and use of redlining in Montgomery County

What is redlining? A look at the history of racism in American real estate

  1. https://www.law.nyu.edu/sites/default/files/siwp/Rose.pdf ↩︎
  2. https://www.federalreservehistory.org/essays/redlining ↩︎
  3. https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/what-is-redlining/ ↩︎
  4. https://montgomeryplanningboard.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Mapping-Segregation-Staff-Report_12-1-22.pdf ↩︎