…are clauses in deeds or property records that limit who can purchase, live or use land based on their race, ethnicity or religion. Racially restrictive covenants are illegal and not enforceable.


Use of racially restrictive covenants accelerated in the early 1900s as Arlington transformed into a popular suburb of Washington, DC. Once recorded, these clauses “ran with the land” and often were not restated each time a property transferred. For that reason many current homeowners have no idea that a covenant has been associated with their property. 

Locating Covenants

We began with a list of 15 subdivisions that were referenced in prior scholarship. Reviewing land records from 1900 to 1968, we searched for covenants and restrictions that limited who could live, use or own the land based on race, ethnicity, or religion.  Archival documents help us refine our search strategies. We have located over 800 land records that contain racially restrictive covenants. 

The research records on this site span the history of twentieth-century Northern Virginia, and it is our goal to preserve and make available this historical content. As a result, some of the materials presented here reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and discriminatory language.