The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

by Richard Rothstein


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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

One of Publishers Weekly's 10 Best Books of 2017
Longlisted for the National Book AwardThis “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, explodes the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation—that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, The Color of Law incontrovertibly makes clear that it was de jure segregation—the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments—that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day.Through extraordinary revelations and extensive research that Ta-Nehisi Coates has lauded as "brilliant" (The Atlantic), Rothstein comes to chronicle nothing less than an untold story that begins in the 1920s, showing how this process of de jure segregation began with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African Americans moved in a great historical migration from the south to the north.As Jane Jacobs established in her classic The Death and Life of Great American Cities, it was the deeply flawed urban planning of the 1950s that created many of the impoverished neighborhoods we know. Now, Rothstein expands our understanding of this history, showing how government policies led to the creation of officially segregated public housing and the demolition of previously integrated neighborhoods. While urban areas rapidly deteriorated, the great American suburbanization of the post–World War II years was spurred on by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African Americans. Finally, Rothstein shows how police and prosecutors brutally upheld these standards by supporting violent resistance to black families in white neighborhoods.The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited future discrimination but did nothing to reverse residential patterns that had become deeply embedded. Yet recent outbursts of violence in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and Minneapolis show us precisely how the legacy of these earlier eras contributes to persistent racial unrest. “The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book” (Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund), as Rothstein’s invaluable examination shows that only by relearning this history can we finally pave the way for the nation to remedy its unconstitutional past.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631492853
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 05/02/2017
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 43,512
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a Fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He lives in California, where he is a Fellow of the Haas Institute at the University of California–Berkeley.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

1 If San Francisco, Then Everywhere? 3

2 Public Housing, Black Ghettos 17

3 Racial Zoning 39

4 "Own Your Own Home" 59

5 Private Agreements, Government Enforcement 77

6 White Flight 93

7 IRS Support and Compliant Regulators 101

8 Local Tactics 115

9 State-Sanctioned Violence 139

10 Suppressed Incomes 153

11 Looking Forward, Looking Back 177

12 Considering Fixes 195

Epilogue 215

Appendix: Frequently Asked Questions 219

Author's Note and Acknowledgments 241

Notes 253

Bibliography 293

Photograph Credits 321

Index 325

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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
AndrewReadsBooks More than 1 year ago
The Color of Law, by Richard Rothstein, is a powerful and meticulous examination of the history of housing segregation in the United States. Challenging the notions of "socially imposed segregation" that are perpetuated by many influential lawmakers (like Supreme Court Justice John Roberts) and perpetuated by inadequate coverage in modern history textbooks ("Many African Americans found themselves living in segregated neighborhoods"), Rothstein tracks the systematic enforcement of housing segregation through government policies, insurance practices, zoning practices, wage suppression, housing covenants, and sanctioned violence against African Americans who moved into White neighborhoods. He argues persuasively that these policies were explicitly and overtly designed to prevent African Americans from integrating, reduce their access to gainful employment, and prevent them from developing equity, and highlights how the effects of these discriminatory practices are reflected in modern racial problems. Perhaps most alarmingly, he highlights ongoing housing discrimination through practices like biased property tax rates, controlling multi-unit housing, and Section 8 discrimination. In addition to tracing out the breadth of the systematic government propagated segregation that was carried out in the US throughout the past 70 years, Rothstein provides a remarkable level of depth. By diving deeply into the mechanics and results of these policies, he is able to undeniably show the malicious intent and lasting effects of these policies. By grounding his history and analysis in clear statements of policy and economics, he heads off many criticisms that are often supplied by those who would prefer to not acknowledge the historical maltreatment of African Americans. One of the best sections of this book is Rothstein's recommendations for remedies. This topic is addressed with a level of empiricism and candor that is often missing from our conversations about how to address the legacy of segregation and abuse. Rothstein recognizes that remedies will necessarily have adverse effects for some whites, and that in the short term there will be resistance from all sides. What I found most valuable in Rothstein's suggestions is their sustainability and practicality; lasting policies addressing the economic and racial composition of new housing developments have the potential to enact meaningful changes that more myopic single payout approaches fail to achieve. I strongly encourage this book for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of modern racial segregation, and how it has impacted our society.
smg5775 More than 1 year ago
Interesting book on how the government ignored the Constitution to create segregate communities of African-Americans and Caucasians. I learned a lot and much made me angry. He gives the history of how and when this happened and remedies to correct the past. At times I didn't understand but he wrote so that I could understand the concept. He documents everything. I especially liked the FAQ section. Worth reading.