THE COLOR OF LAW: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, Richard Rothstein

Liveright, May 2017

“Racial segregation does not just happen; it is made. Written with a spatial imagination, this exacting and exigent book traces how public policies across a wide spectrum―including discriminatory zoning, taxation, subsidies, and explicit redlining―have shaped the racial fracturing of America. At once analytical and passionate, The Color of Law discloses why segregation has persisted, even deepened, in the post–civil rights era, and thoughtfully proposes how remedies might be pursued. A must-read.” --Ira Katznelson, author of the Bancroft Prize–winning Fear Itself


An explosive, alarming history that finally confronts how American governments in the twentieth century deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide.

Lauded by Ta-Nehisi Coates for his “brilliant” and “fine understanding of the machinery of government policy” (Atlantic), Richard Rothstein has painstakingly documented how American cities – from San Francisco to Boston – became so racially divided.

Rothstein describes how federal, state, and local governments 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. He demonstrates that such policies still influence tragedies in places like Ferguson and Baltimore. Scholars have separately described many of these policies but until now, no author has brought them together to explode the myth of “de facto” segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces. Like The New Jim Crow, Rothstein’s groundbreaking history forces us to face the obligation to remedy our unconstitutional past.



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