The Color of Law

The Color of Law

A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Book - 2017
Average Rating:
Rate this:
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.
Publisher: New York :, Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company,, [2017]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9781631492853
Branch Call Number: 305.8 R847c 2017
Characteristics: xvii, 345 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Nov 26, 2017

This 2017 book explores the policies of the American government at the federal, state, and local levels by law (de Jure) have denied to African-Americans mortgages, equal wages, equal public educational opportunities. American history books studied in our educational systems have been written to suggest that all of the listed opportunities do not exist or if they do exist are not that important and exist not by government policy but just by accident (de facto). The book demolishes this mythology that discrimination is no longer that important or that African-Americans just do not work as hard as whites, etc. etc. Each page documents the rampant injustice to African-Americans that is perpetrated by government every day.

Jul 15, 2017

While it's easy to depict racism in this country as accidental or because simply because people back then didn't know better, racism is systemic and more often than not the result of policy, but public and unofficial. Richard Rothstein's book focuses on housing discrimination and how it was deliberate and sanctione; from real estate agents to white home owners to government officials, all are complicit. Though somewhat dryly written (Rothstein is both a fellow and a research associate), this is an essential and shocking history of what we all too conveniently forget when talking about housing policy, gentrification, and the "ghetto." If you're already feeling pessimistic about race relations in the Trump era, well, this won't make you feel any better. A few other recent books on housing policy: "What a City is For" and "Evicted."

May 18, 2017

I knew some of this but not the extent that was sanctioned by US government. Horrible!
Author of interviewed on NPR,


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Get NoveList Reading Recommendations

Subject Headings


Find it at TCCL

To Top