Friday, December 9, 2011

"WHEREAS, colored people have been considering Granville Street..."

Woodland Park, Columbus, Ohio 
Many residents of Columbus signed deeds and contracts like this one commonly referred to as restrictive covenants. These were designed to keep blacks from moving into predominantly white neighborhoods.

The legality of these restrictive covenants was decided in 1948 by the U.S. Supreme Court in the the case of Shelley v. Kramer. The Court held that racially-based restrictive covenants are, on their face, valid under the Fourteenth Amendment. Private parties may voluntarily abide by the terms of a restrictive covenant but may not seek judicial enforcement of such a covenant because enforcement by the courts would constitute state action. Since such state action would necessarily be discriminatory, the enforcement of a racially-based restrictive covenant in a state court would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court rejected an argument that since state courts would enforce a restrictive covenant against white persons, judicial enforcement of restrictive covenants would not be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause. The court noted that the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed individual rights, and equal protection of the law is not achieved with the imposition of inequalities.

Granville Street was no exception. Eugene and Barbara Litzinger signed this one in the June of 1927 after they bought Sam Snider's house at 1580 Granville Street. I had read about these deeds, but this one is the first one I came across in it's entirety. I represent this here for it's historical interest.

The beginning of the Litzinger's document outlines the property and the ownership, and then goes on...

     WHEREAS, colored people have been considering Granville Street between Taylor Avenue and Woodland Avenue with a view to purchasing property thereon;
     WHEREAS, the said property owners desire to prevent such destruction of value of their property;
     NOW THEREFORE, the said Eugene J. Litzinger, hereinafter called Owners, in consideration of the premises, in consideration of the sum of one dollar and other good and valuable considerations in hand paid by each of said Owners to each of the other Owners, the receipt and sufficiency of all of which considerations are hereby acknowledged by each of said Owners, and the covenants of each Owner being the consideration for the covenants of the other Owners, do hereby mutually agree and covenant as follows:
     1. Each of said Owners hereby agrees and binds himself, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, never to sell, lease, mortgage, pledge, give or otherwise dispose of, in any way shape or form, the property above mentioned as owned by him, or any part thereof to any colored person or persons.
     2. Each of the said Owners agrees and binds himself, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, including corporations and assigns in any capacity, never to rent said premises to any colored person or persons, or permit any colored person or persons to use or occupy the premises owned by him, or any part thereof, except as a servant working for the white family or persons who occupy said premises.
     3. By the term "colored person" as used in this contract is meant "colored person" in the ordinary meaning of the words and any person in whole or in part of the negro race or blood, and any person than a member of the white or Caucasian race.
    4. Each Owner hereby agrees that he will not execute or enter into any contract for the sale of the real estate owned by his, as aforesaid, without providing in said contract that the same shall be void if the purchaser is a colored person.
    5. Each Owner hereby agrees that the agreements and covenants contained in this deed and contract shall and do run with the land, and each Owner further agrees that in every deed, mortgage, lease or other instrument affecting the title to said premises executed and delivered in the future, such Owner, his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns shall make the provisions of this contract a part thereof by reference incorporated therein, and shall declare therein that the provisions of this instrument shall be a covenant running with the land, and shall require all future covenants or instruments affecting the title to said real estate to contain a clause declaring that the provisions of this deed and contract are covenants running with the land. All parties hereto agree that this deed and contract shall be recorded, that it shall be indexed in the Index of Deeds and that any contract of sale or other instrument which violates the provisions of this contract shall be void, even tho Owner entering into it, or assigns, believing they are selling to a white person and even tho such Owner was induced to make such contract through mistake or by deceit.
     6. All of the Owners for themselves, their heirs, executors administrators and assigns, agree that the ownership, occupancy or use by any colored person of any of the property above mentioned (except as a servant as above provided) constitutes and will constitute irreparable injury to the property above mentioned and to the owners of said property at the time of such sale, ownership, use or occupancy, and each owner for himself and for his successors in title to said property, agrees and consents that the Court issue a permanent injunction restraining the transfer, sale, mortgage, or disposal of said property, or of any of the said properties, in violation of the provisions of this contract, or the rental, use or occupancy of said property or any one of said properties in violation of this contract.
    7. Each of the Owners hereto hereby grants, bargains, sells and conveys to all the other owners hereto, their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, the rights, protection and privileges mentioned in this instrument. This contract will remain in full force and affect for the term of twenty five years, beginning November 1, 1924, and fully to be completed and ended on October 31, 1949.
    8. Wherever in this instrument the Owner is alluded to in the masculine gender, it shall be held to apply to the feminine gender if such Owner be a woman, and each Owner herein binds not only himself or herself, but the covenants of this deed or contract, but also his or her heirs, executors, administrators and assigns.
     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the said Eugene J. Litzinger and Barbara Litzinger husband and wife, have hereunto set their hands this 7 day of June A.D. 1927..."

Amazingly, it seems that this contract and deed did work to keep African-Americans from owning property on the street, at least up until the Supreme Court's decision which was only a year from the expiration of the covenant anyway. As I research I will be looking to see if any "pioneers" tried to break or were successful in breaking the covenant.

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