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.
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.
Interesting content, written in a boring manner.
The contents of the book are worth knowing about, but I had to force myself to read each chapter.
The racial wealth gap truly is the result of state action.
This book is a masterclass in how segregation created the racial wealth (and health gap), and how these state actions are still very much affecting today. For me, my first high school was 99% African-American, and perhaps it was youth naïveté that led me to believe that’s just how it was, but no, I went to a segregated school. The effects of housing are so entrenched in the lives of Gen X and Millenials. The only way one could think otherwise is because they’ve been misinformed...This is truth to power!
Don’t care kill me