Duke University Deals With Its Past Use of Racially Restrictive Covenants in Deeds for Faculty Housing

Beginning in 1931 Duke University mandated that faculty members living in the Duke Forest could not sell their homes to blacks, or even let them sleep overnight on the property unless they were household help. Such restrictive covenants in housing were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1948. But the covenants remained in deeds for 232 properties in Duke Forest until 1969. In 1989 the university sent a letter to property owners which stated, “The university can and hereby does make it clear that it repudiates racially restrictive covenants and regards them as morally wrong in addition to being legally void.”

Earlier this month Duke University went a step further. The university filed papers with the Durham County courts waiving any rights to enforce the restrictions on the 232 deeds for properties in the Duke Forest. While the filing is largely symbolic, the waivers eliminate the possibility that the exclusionary provisions could ever be reinstated should the Supreme Court ever overturn its decision outlawing restrictive covenants.