Honors Students Uncovering History

This spring, senior Olivia Schleper ’23 joined juniors Connor Veldman ’24, Robbie Smith ’24 and Eileen Otto ’24, to apply undergraduate research to the study of Central Minnesota history in ways that could prove transformational. As part of a course in the recently restructured Honors program, they worked with the Stearns County Recorder’s Office and the Stearns History Museum to uncover nearly 100 deeds that still include clauses intended to restrict the sale to and occupancy of properties from some ethnic groups. Most were in St. Cloud, but others were found in outlying areas – including the Islewood Beach section of Collegeville – just south of the Saint John’s campus.

Their work made headlines, including a story by Minnesota Public Radio.

Racial covenants were used to segregate communities. And, while they became unenforceable in 1953, the patterns they created continue to exist and keep some residents from living close to parks, schools and businesses. Indeed, where you live has been proven to be a social determinant of health and longevity – which persistently varies by race.

The students hope their efforts will spur a drive, at least symbolic in nature, for property owners to strike the racial covenant clauses from their deeds.

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