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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein

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Liveright Publishing Corporation
02 May 2017
History; Sociology & anthropology
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.
By:   Richard Rothstein
Imprint:   Liveright Publishing Corporation
Country of Publication:   United States
Dimensions:   Height: 244mm,  Width: 163mm,  Spine: 36mm
Weight:   589g
ISBN:   9781631492853
ISBN 10:   1631492853
Pages:   368
Publication Date:   02 May 2017
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

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 is a Fellow of the Haas Institute at the University of California-Berkeley.

Reviews for The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law offers an original and insightful explanation of how government policy in the United States intentionally promoted and enforced residential racial segregation. The central premise of his argument, which calls for a fundamental reexamination of American constitutional law, is that the Supreme Court has failed for decades to understand the extent to which residential racial segregation in our nation is not the result of private decisions by private individuals, but is the direct product of unconstitutional government action. The implications of his analysis are revolutionary. -- Geoffrey R. Stone, author of Sex and the Constitution A masterful explication of the single most vexing problem facing black America: the concentration of the poor and middle class into segregated neighborhoods. Rothstein documents the deep historical roots and the continuing practices in law and social custom that maintain a profoundly un-American system holding down the nation's most disadvantaged citizens. -- Thomas B. Edsall, author of The Age of Austerity Through meticulous research and powerful human stories, Richard Rothstein reveals a history of racism hiding in plain sight and compels us to confront the consequences of the intentional, decades-long governmental policies that created a segregated America. The American landscape will never look the same to readers of this important book. -- Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund Racial segregation does not just happen; it is made. Written with a spatial imagination, this exacting and exigent book traces how public policies across a wide spectrum-including discriminatory zoning, taxation, subsidies, and explicit redlining-have shaped the racial fracturing of America. At once analytical and passionate, The Color of Law discloses why segregation has persisted, even deepened, in the post-civil rights era, and thoughtfully proposes how remedies might be pursued. A must-read. -- Ira Katznelson, author of the Bancroft Prize-winning Fear Itself This wonderful, important book could not be more timely. It shows how federal, state, and local government housing policies made the United States two societies, separate and unequal, and used public power to impose unfair, profoundly damaging injuries on African Americans. The book is filled with history that's been deliberately buried even as its tragic consequences make headlines in Ferguson, Tulsa, Dallas, Staten Island, Charleston-and throughout the country. With its clarity and breadth, the book is literally a page-turner: once one begins on this journey with Richard Rothstein, one is not likely to stop before the conclusion, with a determination that the injustices described must be redressed fully and immediately. -- Florence Roisman, William F. Harvey Professor of Law, Indiana University

  • Long-listed for National Book Award 2017

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