DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) – Hidden secrets were buried away in the offices of county recorders. 

Real estate deeds and other documents dating back to the 30s and 40s that enabled whites to get bank loans for homes while discriminating against Black people and other minorities were uncovered. A problem in the deep south? It was happening right here in central Illinois.

With the help of county recorders in Macon, Champaign and Sangamon counties, WAND News found restrictive racial covenants and racial restrictions listed in real estate records that still exist in that paperwork today.  Although legally unenforceable, language prohibiting anyone not of the white or Caucasian race from owning or living in certain properties has never been removed from official government records.

“You’re the first to come in since I’ve been here to ask about this particular issue,” Champaign County Recorder Mike Ingram told the WAND News I-TEAM. “It’s not just Champaign County.  This is an everywhere problem.”

To get the offensive wording removed would require an individual to obtain the services of a lawyer and going to court.  A bill in the Illinois legislature is currently pending that would allow the recorder and state's attorney to approve removing the language for as little as $10.  But for now, the covenants remain.

Maps were created of cities across the nation and used by the federal government, bankers, real estate agents and lawyers to segregate cities. WAND News found these maps from the 1930s for Decatur and Springfield.  Neighborhoods on the maps were given four different colors, with green for the best white neighborhoods and red for the “hazardous” neighborhoods where non-whites lived. It created the term redlining.

Redlined neighborhoods could rarely get home loans on good terms.  Either interest rates were significantly higher than white neighborhoods or the loans were denied altogether.

(See our Monday May 17, 2021 and Tuesday May 18, 2021 I-TEAM stories attached to this article. Reported and researched by Jacklynn Boatman & Doug Wolfe. Photographed and edited by Eric Ahola.)  

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