The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein

Terrified by the 1917 Russian revolution, government officials came to believe that communism could be defeated in the United States by getting as many white Americans as possible to become homeowners—the idea being that those who owned property would be invested in the capitalist system. So in 1917 the federal Department of Labor promoted an “Own-Your-Own-Home” campaign, handing out “We Own Our Own Home” buttons to schoolchildren and distributing pamphlets saying that it was a “patriotic duty” to cease renting and to build a single-family unit. The department printed more than two million posters to be hung in factories and other businesses and published newspaper advertisements throughout the country promoting single-family ownership—each one had an image of a white couple or family.

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