The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein

It wasn’t only the large-scale federal programs of public housing and mortgage finance that created de jure segregation. Hundreds, if not thousands of smaller acts of government contributed. They included petty actions like denial of access to public utilities; determining, once African Americans wanted to build, that their property was, after all, needed for parkland; or discovering that a road leading to African American homes was “private.” They included routing interstate highways to create racial boundaries or to shift the residential placement of African American families. And they included choosing school sites to force families to move to segregated neighborhoods if they wanted education for their children. Taken in isolation, we can easily dismiss such devices as aberrations. But when we consider them as a whole, we can see that they were part of a national system by which state and local government supplemented federal efforts to maintain the status of African Americans as a lower caste,

Link · 1919