The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Book - 2017
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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
Publisher: New York : Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781631492853
Characteristics: xvii, 345 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

An “engrossing book reveals just how the U.S. arrived at the “systematic racial segregation we find in metropolitan areas today,” focusing in particular on the role of government.” - from the publisher.

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Feb 01, 2020

When I hear a commentator like Jonah Goldberg bad-mouthing FDR’s administration, I can write it off as grousing by the losing side in America’s history of societal improvement. The Color of Law shows how the same administration promoted redlining and denied well-deserved loans in return for Southern Democrats’ support. While it’s disheartening to know how far short of our ideals we as a nation have fallen, Rothstein’s essential history shows how “we as a nation have avoided contemplating remedies because we’ve because we’ve indulged in the comfortable delusion that our segregation has not resulted primarily from state action and so, we conclude, there is not much we are required to do about it.” [p. 215] it’s good to know that liberal writers can at least own up to the shortcomings, honestly acknowledge mea culpa, and offer solutions, not merely joust with ideological windmills.

Oct 29, 2019

It makes a good case. Unfortunately, he is also realistic about the low chances for any solutions.

Apr 05, 2019

An essential read.

Aug 08, 2018

I thought this was going to be dull at first with fact after fact. However I'm glad I stuck with the book. It really goes into why areas / cities are mapped out in certain demographics today. Many of the stories in this book are disheartening but it's also good that they're finally being brought to light. I advise others to read to get a better glance at the obstacles some were placed with and against still affecting many to this day.

Jul 15, 2018

A well-documented history of the myriad ways in which laws and policies at all levels of government intentionally created segregation in America well into the the 1960's, and in some instances even more recently. The author clearly explains the ways in which present-day segregation and racial inequality are in large part the result of these laws and policies. He also outlines some potential remedies, but his goal is first and foremost to educate all Americans about our "forgotten history." An important book.

Apr 16, 2018

Richard Rothstein highlights policies along with anecdotes that demonstrate the racism and alienation of African Americans from the mainstream of society. With the inability to successfully integrate with policies that benefited their white counterparts, African Americans were designated to less affluent neighborhoods that didn't provide the best accommodations. While we can be proud as a country of the progress that has been made, their is still so much to go regarding equal opportunity for POC. While I don't believe this current administration has any interest in remedying or at least acknowledging it the problem, this book should emphasize the policies or cases needed to improve our country for everyone!

Apr 15, 2018

I'd recommend this book to be on every US citizen's reading list. It's a sad, disgraceful yet extremely enlightening book. I had no idea how poorly African Americans have been treated in the 20th century by almost every sector of the US government, state and local Governments. Discrimination of African Americans continues in many polices and policing to this day. Segregation is something we should all work actively to end esp those in positions of power and have the ability to influence the masses. This information in this book should be included in the history of every classroom in America. Perhaps it would help create increased tolerance and empathy which seems like what we need now.

Nov 26, 2017

This 2017 book explores the policies of the American government at the federal, state, and local levels by law (de Jure) have denied to African-Americans mortgages, equal wages, equal public educational opportunities. American history books studied in our educational systems have been written to suggest that all of the listed opportunities do not exist or if they do exist are not that important and exist not by government policy but just by accident (de facto). The book demolishes this mythology that discrimination is no longer that important or that African-Americans just do not work as hard as whites, etc. etc. Each page documents the rampant injustice to African-Americans that is perpetrated by government every day.

Jul 15, 2017

While it's easy to depict racism in this country as accidental or because simply because people back then didn't know better, racism is systemic and more often than not the result of policy, but public and unofficial. Richard Rothstein's book focuses on housing discrimination and how it was deliberate and sanctione; from real estate agents to white home owners to government officials, all are complicit. Though somewhat dryly written (Rothstein is both a fellow and a research associate), this is an essential and shocking history of what we all too conveniently forget when talking about housing policy, gentrification, and the "ghetto." If you're already feeling pessimistic about race relations in the Trump era, well, this won't make you feel any better. A few other recent books on housing policy: "What a City is For" and "Evicted."

May 18, 2017

I knew some of this but not the extent that was sanctioned by US government. Horrible!
Author of interviewed on NPR,

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