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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America
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Liveright 2017
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New York Times Bestseller • Notable Book of the Year • Editors' Choice Selection

One of Bill Gates' "Amazing Books" of the Year

One of Publishers Weekly's 10 Best Books of the Year

Longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction

An NPR Best Book of the Year

Winner of the Hillman Prize for Nonfiction

Gold Winner • California Book Award (Nonfiction)

Finalist • Los Angeles Times Book Prize (History)

Finalist • Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize


This "powerful and disturbing history" exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).



Widely heralded as a "masterful" (Washington Post) and "essential" (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law offers "the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation" (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. A groundbreaking, "virtually indispensable" study that has already transformed our understanding of twentieth-century urban history (Chicago Daily Observer), The Color of Law forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.

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Format:
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Street Date:
05/02/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781631492860
ASIN:
B01M8IWJT2

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APA Citation (style guide)

Richard Rothstein. (2017). The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Richard Rothstein. 2017. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Richard Rothstein. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Liveright, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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New York Times Bestseller • Notable Book of the Year • Editors' Choice Selection
One of Bill Gates' "Amazing Books" of the Year
One of Publishers Weekly's 10 Best Books of the Year
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
An NPR Best Book of the Year
Winner of the Hillman Prize for Nonfiction
Gold Winner • California Book Award (Nonfiction)
Finalist • Los Angeles Times Book Prize (History)
Finalist • Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize

This "powerful and disturbing history" exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).

Widely heralded as a "masterful" (Washington Post) and "essential" (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law offers "the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation" (William Julius Wilson). Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation: with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods. A groundbreaking, "virtually indispensable" study that has already transformed our understanding of twentieth-century urban history (Chicago Daily Observer), The Color of Law forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.
reviews
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from February 20, 2017
        Rothstein’s comprehensive and engrossing book reveals just how the U.S. arrived at the “systematic racial segregation we find in metropolitan areas today,” focusing in particular on the role of government. While remaining cognizant of recent changes in legislation and implementation, Rothstein is keenly alert to the continuing effects of past practices. He leads the reader through Jim Crow laws, sundown towns, restrictive covenants, blockbusting, law enforcement complicity, and subprime loans. The book touches on the Federal Housing Administration and the creation of public housing projects, explaining how these were transformed into a “warehousing system for the poor.” Rothstein also notes the impact of Woodrow Wilson’s racist hiring policies, the New Deal–era Fair Labor Standards that excluded “industries in which African Americans predominated, like agriculture,” and the exclusion of African-American workers from the construction trades, making clear how directly government contributed to segregation in labor. And Rothstein shows exactly why a simplistic North/South polarization lacks substance, using copious examples from both regions. This compassionate and scholarly diagnosis of past policies and prescription for our current racial maladies shines a bright light on some shadowy spaces. 13 illus.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        March 1, 2017
        How government policies have perpetuated the caste system of slavery.Rothstein (Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right, 2008, etc.), a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute and a fellow at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, mounts a hard-hitting argument condemning federal, state, and local governments for devising laws that enforce segregation. Underserved, blighted African-American communities, he argues persuasively, are not the result only of personal prejudice or market forces but of unconstitutional "racially explicit government policies to segregate our metropolitan areas." The author cites cases and decisions regarding public housing, racial zoning, mortgage lending, the enforcement of housing covenants, fearmongering to incite white flight, planning for highways and roads, IRS tax-exemption status for institutions that promote segregation, state-sanctioned violence, and the effects of segregation on schools and income disparity. Although he sometimes refers to particular individuals, his main focus is on law and public policy affecting neighborhoods. In 1949, for example, when a proposed integration amendment to a public housing law threatened to be defeated by Southern Democrats, liberals caved, voting for a program that stipulated segregation rather than giving up the possibility of much-needed public housing. State supreme courts consistently upheld restrictive real estate covenants that forbade sales of homes to African-Americans, claiming that such "private agreements" did not violate the Constitution. Even after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants did, indeed, violate the 14th Amendment, the Federal Housing Administration continued to deny mortgage insurance to homes in integrated neighborhoods. After World War II, the GI Bill denied African-Americans mortgage subsidies and opportunities for education and training that were available to whites. Rothstein considers the insidious effects of housing segregation on economic mobility, infrastructure, and politics. "Racial polarization," he asserts, bolsters leaders who appeal to white voters' "sense of racial entitlement" and who foster intolerance. An informed, important expose of the nation's institutionalized racism that would have been even more reader-friendly with the inclusion of more individual case histories.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        April 1, 2017
        Recent demonstrations in cities across America against the murder of African Americans by police returned the question of segregation in housing to the fore. While the term de facto segregation is often used to assert that this is the result of private decisions or personal acts of discrimination, Rothstein argues that the real history of segregation is primarily that of explicit or de jure government policy, with personal actions secondary. From wartime public housing to the FHA refusing to insure mortgages for African Americans and many cases in between, government policy at all levels violated the Reconstruction-era constitutional amendments mandating equal protections. Ghettos were deliberately created by official policy. Rothstein provides plenty of evidence to support each example, including interviews, court cases, law codes, and newspapers, along with secondary sources on each aspect of government discrimination. There is an extensive FAQ section for further discussion. This is essential reading for anyone interested in social justice, poverty, American history, and race relations, and its narrative nonfiction style will also draw general readers. This is a timely work that should find a place in the current national discussion.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2017, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        January 1, 2017

        Legally enforced prejudice: a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute, Rothstein carefully documents how in the last century federal, state, and local governments have systematically created and defended residential segregation through zoning laws, tax exemptions, and more.

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        Starred review from April 1, 2017

        Conventional narratives about segregation in 21st-century America hold that persistent racial disparities are a product of de facto segregation--the summation of individual preferences--rather than de jure segregation enforced (unconstitutionally) by law. Legal scholar Rothstein (NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) disabuses us of this "too-comfortable notion" that the state has not incentivised, and in some cases explicitly required, discrimination against African Americans. Rather than being an accident of privately held prejudice, Rothstein's work argues that segregation across the long 20th century was a product of federal, state, and local housing and land-use policies that directly and intentionally led to the suppression of black family wealth and well-being. To support his argument, he draws on extensive historical research that documents government efforts to create and enforce segregation. Each chapter focuses on a particular tactic such as public housing, racial covenants, or state-sanctioned violence. The final section calls on citizens to accept collective responsibility and remedy state wrongs through public policy. VERDICT This indictment of government-sponsored segregation is a timely work that will find broad readership among those asking "How did we arrive here?" and "What next?"--Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc.

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        April 1, 2017

        Conventional narratives about segregation in 21st-century America hold that persistent racial disparities are a product of de facto segregation--the summation of individual preferences--rather than de jure segregation enforced (unconstitutionally) by law. Legal scholar Rothstein (NAACP Legal Defense Fund; Univ. of Calif., Berkeley) disabuses us of this "too-comfortable notion" that the state has not incentivised, and in some cases explicitly required, discrimination against African Americans. Rather than being an accident of privately held prejudice, Rothstein's work argues that segregation across the long 20th century was a product of federal, state, and local housing and land-use policies that directly and intentionally led to the suppression of black family wealth and well-being. To support his argument, he draws on extensive historical research that documents government efforts to create and enforce segregation. Each chapter focuses on a particular tactic such as public housing, racial covenants, or state-sanctioned violence. The final section calls on citizens to accept collective responsibility and remedy state wrongs through public policy. VERDICT This indictment of government-sponsored segregation is a timely work that will find broad readership among those asking "How did we arrive here?" and "What next?"--Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc.

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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New York Times Bestseller • Notable Book of the Year • Editors' Choice Selection
One of Bill Gates' "Amazing Books" of the Year
One of Publishers Weekly's 10 Best Books of the Year
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Nonfiction
An NPR Best Book of the Year
Winner of the Hillman Prize for Nonfiction
Gold Winner • California Book Award (Nonfiction)
Finalist • Los Angeles Times Book Prize (History)
Finalist • Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize

This "powerful and disturbing history" exposes how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide (New York Times Book Review).

Widely heralded as a "masterful" (Washington Post) and "essential" (Slate) history of the modern American metropolis, Richard Rothstein's The Color of Law offers "the most forceful argument ever published on how federal,...
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