1945 October 9

White Residents Seek to Enforce Racially Restrictive Housing Covenants, but Fail


Louis Kraemer and other white residents in a St. Louis, Missouri, neighborhood filed suit on this day to block the J. D. Shelley family, who were African-American, from purchasing a home in the area of Labadie Avenue. A restrictive covenant on the deed to the property prohibited its sale to African-Americans. The case reached the Supreme Court, in Shelley v. Kraemer, in which the Court declared such restrictive covenants unenforceable because to do so would involve the courts enforcing an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment (May 3, 1948). The Court did not rule on whether restrictive racial covenants were unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment; in other words, they could be used as strictly private agreements.

Congress finally passed the Fair Housing Act, a federal law prohibiting discrimination in housing, on April 11, 1968. The Supreme Court affirmed and strengthened the 1968 Fair Housing Act in a crucial decision on June 25, 2015.

Read the covenant in question:http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/covenants.htm

Watch a documentary on the case: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEXFbBE29Kw

Learn more about the history of restrictive housing covenants: http://www.bostonfairhousing.org/timeline/1920s1948-Restrictive-Covenants.html

Learn more: John Yinger, Closed Doors, Opportunities Lost: The Continuing Costs of Housing Discrimination (1995)

Learn about housing discrimination at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:

Learn about the history of restrictive covenants in the state of Washington: http://depts.washington.edu/civilr/covenants.htm

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