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

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Liveright Publishing, May 2, 2017 - Social Science - 368 pages

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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User Review  - arosoff - LibraryThing

This is a must read for understanding how our cities and towns became racially segregated, and how this was explicit government policy. Many of us have some idea of how it happened--steering ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - aevaughn - LibraryThing

The Color of Law details the history of segregation both in law and in fact. In addition, he discusses what would need to be done to rectify certain parts of this injustice. Read full review


If San Francisco then Everywhere?
Public Housing Black Ghettos
Racial Zoning
Own Your Own Home
Private Agreements Government Enforcement
White Flight
IRS Support and Compliant Regulators
Suppressed Incomes
Looking Forward Looking Back
Considering Fixes
Frequently Asked Questions
Authors Note and Acknowledgments

Local Tactics
StateSanctioned Violence

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About the author (2017)

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

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