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Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms

Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms

by Richard R. W. Brooks, Carol M. RoseRichard R. W. Brooks
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Saving the Neighborhood tells the charged, still controversial story of the rise and fall of racially restrictive covenants in America, and offers rare insight into the ways legal and social norms reinforce one another, acting with pernicious efficacy to codify and perpetuate intolerance.

The early 1900s saw an unprecedented migration of African Americans leaving the rural South in search of better work and equal citizenship. In reaction, many white communities instituted property agreements—covenants—designed to limit ownership and residency according to race. Restrictive covenants quickly became a powerful legal guarantor of segregation, their authority facing serious challenge only in 1948, when the Supreme Court declared them legally unenforceable in Shelley v. Kraemer. Although the ruling was a shock to courts that had upheld covenants for decades, it failed to end their influence. In this incisive study, Richard Brooks and Carol Rose unpack why.

At root, covenants were social signals. Their greatest use lay in reassuring the white residents that they shared the same goal, while sending a warning to would-be minority entrants: keep out. The authors uncover how loosely knit urban and suburban communities, fearing ethnic mixing or even “tipping,” were fair game to a new class of entrepreneurs who catered to their fears while exacerbating the message encoded in covenants: that black residents threatened white property values. Legal racial covenants expressed and bestowed an aura of legitimacy upon the wish of many white neighborhoods to exclude minorities. Sadly for American race relations, their legacy still lingers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674072541
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 04/01/2013
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Richard R. W. Brooks is Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law at Yale Law School.

Carol M. Rose is Gordon Bradford Tweedy Professor Emeritus of Law and Organization and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and Lohse Professor of Law at the University of Arizona.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Recalling Racialized Property 1

2 Before Covenants 19

3 The Big Guns Silenced: How Racial Covenants Overcame Major Objections from Constitutional Law, Property Law, and Corporations Law 47

4 Pushing Down the Ghosts: Covenant Development and Unseen Legal Influences 71

5 The Calculus of Covenants 94

6 The Emergence of the Norm Breakers 114

7 The Great Dilemma for Legal Norms: Shelley and State Action 140

8 After Shelley: Reactions, Evasions, Substitutions 168

9 Changing Games in the Twilight of Covenants: Signals, Tipping Points, and Quotas 187

10 Conclusion: Covenants' Legacy 211

Notes 233

Acknowledgments 283

Index 285

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