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Illinois eases process of deleting racist terms from deeds

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Illinois State House

WTHI File Photo

CHICAGO (AP) — A new state law lets homeowners in Illinois request the removal of racist language from property deeds, decades after the language was deemed unenforceable and outlawed.

WBEZ reports that restrictive covenants barring Black people from owning a property or labeling properties “white only” can be edited more easily due to the change.

State Sen. Adriane Johnson, a Buffalo Grove Democrat, was among the law’s sponsors. Johnson said the covenants aren’t enforceable but making it simpler to edit them is “another way of righting the wrongs from the past.”

Such deeds and covenants were considered legally binding in the U.S. from 1916 until 1948, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled they were unenforceable.

The 1968 Fair Housing Act made them illegal.

But homeowners still reported finding the racist language in deeds for property and some also found it was difficult to have the documents altered.

Mundelein resident Nicole Sullivan learned 10 years ago that records for her home and others in the subdivision prohibited the selling, transferring or leasing “persons of the African or Negro, Japanese, Chinese, Jewish or Hebrew races, or their descendants.”

Sullivan said her effort to change the documents through Lake County authorities was slow and cumbersome. So she and others in the community petitioned for a change in state law.

“Our neighborhood is still predominantly white,” Sullivan said. “There isn’t a ton of diversity in our neighborhood. Our neighborhood has generations of the same families that live here. People who are in their 80s now have lived here their entire lives, and their parents lived here before that. This legacy from segregation is still here.”

The Lake County’s state’s attorney’s office says it is reviewing cases like Sullivan’s and supports the updated state law making it easier to delete similar references.

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