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The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by [Richard Rothstein]

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

4.8 4.8 out of 5 stars 17,413 ratings

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Editorial Reviews


"A powerful and disturbing history of residential segregation in America . . . One of the great strengths of Rothstein’s account is the sheer weight of evidence he marshals. . . . While the road forward is far from clear, there is no better history of this troubled journey than ‘The Color of Law.’"
David Oshinsky, New York Times Book Review

"Masterful…The Rothstein book gathers meticulous research showing how governments at all levels long employed racially discriminatory policies to deny blacks the opportunity to live in neighborhoods with jobs, good schools and upward mobility."
Jared Bernstein, Washington Post

"Essential…Rothstein persuasively debunks many contemporary myths about racial discrimination….Only when Americans learn a common―and accurate―history of our nation’s racial divisions, he contends, will we then be able to consider steps to fulfill our legal and moral obligations. For the rest of us, still trying to work past 40 years of misinformation, there might not be a better place to start than Rothstein’s book."
Rachel M. Cohen, Slate

"Rothstein’s work should make everyone, all across the political spectrum, reconsider what it is we allow those in power to do in the name of 'social harmony' and 'progress' with more skepticism…
The Color of Law shows what happens when Americans lose their natural rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or in the case of African-Americans, when there are those still waiting to receive them in full."
Carl Paulus, American Conservative

"Virtually indispensable… I can only implore anyone interested in understanding the depth of the problem to read this necessary book."
Don Rose, Chicago Daily Observer

"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. . . . This compassionate and scholarly diagnosis of past policies and prescription for our current racial maladies shines a bright light on some shadowy spaces."
Publishers Weekly [starred review]

The Color of Law should be required reading for every American student… What an amazing accomplishment and what a contribution to restorative justice. Truly a tour de force, and exceptionally moving."
Jeffrey D. Sachs, University Professor of Columbia University and author of The Ages of Globalization: Geography, Technology, and Institutions

"Through meticulous research and powerful human stories, Rothstein reveals a history of racism hiding in plain sight and compels us to confront the consequences of the intentional, decades-long governmental policies that created a segregated America."
Sherrilyn A. Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

"Original and insightful…The central premise of [Rothstein’s] argument…is that the Supreme Court has failed for decades to understand the extent to which residential racial segregation in our nation is not the result of private decisions by private individuals, but is the direct product of unconstitutional government action. The implications of his analysis are revolutionary."
Geoffrey R. Stone, author of Sex and the Constitution

"Masterful…Rothstein documents the deep historical roots and the continuing practices in law and social custom that maintain a profoundly un-American system holding down the nation’s most disadvantaged citizens."
Thomas B. Edsall, author of The Age of Austerity

"This wonderful, important book could not be more timely…With its clarity and breadth, the book is literally a page-turner."
Florence Roisman, William F. Harvey Professor of Law, Indiana University

"One of those rare books that will be discussed and debated for many decades. Based on careful analyses of multiple historical documents, Rothstein has presented what I consider to be the most forceful argument ever published on how federal, state, and local governments gave rise to and reinforced neighborhood segregation."
Wiliam Julius Wilson, author of The Truly Disadvantaged

"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 --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

About the Author

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. --This text refers to the hardcover edition.

Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B01M8IWJT2
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Liveright; Reprint edition (May 2, 2017)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 2, 2017
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 25415 KB
  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Screen Reader ‏ : ‎ Supported
  • Enhanced typesetting ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • X-Ray ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Word Wise ‏ : ‎ Enabled
  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 370 pages
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 4.8 out of 5 stars 17,413 ratings

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Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
17,413 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on May 6, 2021
23 people found this helpful
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 25, 2020
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mind blowing! Sanctioned Under Law
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on October 25, 2020
BOOK REVIEW: The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America, by Richard Rothstein

I was blown away by the book and the phenomenal research that went into it. The bottom line is that our federal, state, and local governments played a major role in legislating and sanctioning American segregation. Churches, universities, law enforcement, and the courts ALL upheld blatant violation of the 13th (1865), 14th (1868), and 15th (1870) Amendments of the United States Constitution. The book is an indictment of the role that each of these agencies of segregation played with a specific focus on housing.

Why housing? Housing has played a major role in building wealth in this country. Housing plays a role in the education one receives, the job opportunities one might get, and the wealth one can pass on to progeny. Housing served as a means of integration. Integration that would have been deemed normal by the time the 1920s rolled around in a post 15th Amendment ratification era. But this was not the story of America. From the interference of racial covenants to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) only approving, issuing, and insuring loans for developers and owners for White-only properties, Blacks would never experience the full impact of homeownership and all the benefits attached to the way their White counterparts would and did. Banks, like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and many others also would not approve loans for Blacks or would charge rates much higher than their Whites even when risk was equivalent.

Chapters of this book paint a picture and help define terms used today. Every real estate agent, developer, city planning office, city councilperson, county commissioner, mayor, etc. etc. should read this book. I don't even think people should talk about reparations without reading and understanding the information in this book and many other revealing authors who have uncovered American History most of us have never heard before.
In short, we were all duped to some level. White fear was played on the most. Even if Whites did not believe and were against what was happening, eventually they paid through public shame, loss of property, damaged property, death threats, and some lost their lives if they stood by their Black brothers and sisters. Some Whites were even sued and jailed for renting to Blacks and other minorities. Ultimately, however, Blacks paid the highest price through generational poverty, abuse, and death carefully crafted by a system that was supposed to protect them through Constitutional rights.

You will learn about the difference between "de facto segregation" and "de jure segregation."

What blew me away the most was the role of the Church. I have commented in many of my book reviews on Christianity or the Church and this shall be no different, especially as I see most churches still do nothing today or they struggle in how to address the issue. Bob Jones University is specifically mentioned in the book. The case of "Bob Jones University vs the United States" in 1983 where the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the 1976 IRS decision and concluded that "an institution seeking tax-exempt status must serve a public purpose and not be contrary to establish public policy." In other words, the university had to give up their practice of "NOT allowing interracial dating by its students." The bottom line to all industries that receive some form of a government benefit through tax-exemptions, subsidies, grants, etc. is that they CAN NOT discriminate as to whom they will serve nor place discriminatory requirements upon people (taxpayers) that utilize their services. If they do, and the evidence shows they do, they put their government-assisted business at risk.

I believe in the American Dream. I believe that people can and should choose and define for themselves the life that they'd like to live within the parameters of our laws. However, I do not believe anyone should get any kind of assistance from my tax dollars (i.e. the government) to discriminate against another person. Our government should reinforce structures and systems that make it difficult for those that receive a government benefit to discriminate. They should be penalized if caught and the data shows it to be a proven fact. And it should take years! This book provides plenty of those proven facts and requires an answer from our elected officials, law enforcement agencies, courts, churches, and education bodies.

I highly recommend this read. It will blow your mind at how carefully segregation was crafted, maintained, and exercised. Even today, some of the same "code-switching" language is used to continue some forms of discrimination based on the old system under which it was established. This book will help you recognize some of that language, but not all.

To Blacks and minorities I will say this, get in a position to own a home or property. Save up for it! Make the necessary sacrifices. Leverage it instead of unsecured credit. Most lenders are looking for their money or repayment to be guaranteed by some form of equity, which a home can provide if you want to launch a business. You can borrow against your own equity to send your kids to college. Waiting on the government, that has been overwhelming against BIPOC, may and probably is not the best answer until officials are in place that will reverse the serious damage done. That can take decades, so for those that are able, start today. Utilize services that will help you get debt-free, that will help you build a nest egg of YOUR OWN, and will help you get into a property you can afford with a modest down payment. This book may also challenge you to leave your all Black neighborhood the way it challenges Whites to accept integration as a means of increasing property value, moving closer to their egalitarian beliefs, and demonstrating an America that truly only exists in a few locales (i.e. neighborhoods) of excellence but not in the country as a whole.

I believe the book will challenge us all...and quite uniquely too!
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21 people found this helpful

Top reviews from other countries

Andrew Fontenelle
5.0 out of 5 stars The Color of Law
Reviewed in the United Kingdom 🇬🇧 on December 28, 2017
15 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars If You Haven't Figured It Out...This will explain
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5.0 out of 5 stars Book: The Color of Law
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