The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein

Although banks would generally make mortgage loans to affluent buyers without government involvement, they usually shied away from making loans to working-class families unless the mortgages were insured. With reduced risk, banks offered lower interest rates, making ownership more affordable to working-class families. For veterans, government approval also usually meant that no down payment was required. As in Rollingwood ten years earlier, one of the federal government’s specifications for mortgages insured in Milpitas was an openly stated prohibition on sales to African Americans. Because Milpitas had no apartments, and houses in the area were off-limits to black workers—though their incomes and economic circumstances were like those of whites on the assembly line—African Americans at Ford had to choose between giving up their good industrial jobs, moving to apartments in a segregated neighborhood of San Jose, or enduring lengthy commutes between North Richmond and Milpitas. Frank Stevenson bought a van, recruited eight others to share the costs, and made the drive daily for the next twenty years until he retired. The trip took more than an hour each way.

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