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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New York Times Bestseller • Notable Book of the Year • Editors' Choice Selection

One of Bill Gates’ “Amazing Books” of the Year

One of Publishers Weekly’s 10 Best Books of the Year

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

An NPR Best Book of the Year

Winner of the Hillman Prize for Nonfiction

Gold Winner • California Book Award (Nonfiction)

Finalist • Los Angeles Times Book Prize (History)

Finalist • Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize

This “powerful and disturbing history” exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).

Widely heralded as a “masterful” (Washington Post) and “essential” (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law offers “the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation” (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. A groundbreaking, “virtually indispensable” study that has already transformed our understanding of twentieth-century urban history (Chicago Daily Observer), The Color of Law forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631494536
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 10,187
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(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 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 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.
JUSTFORFUN1088 More than 1 year ago
Should be required reading for anyone who doesn't understand how race still plays a roll in how our system operates today, despite equal protection clauses in the U.S. constitution. This was required reading for a law class that I took, and it felt less like a text book, and more like an engaging retelling of our Nation's problematic policies, that still exist today, regarding our own citizens.