Gunnar Myrdal, AN AMERICAN DILEMMA, Volume 2, The Negro Social Structure, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1964)

On Racial Restrictive Covenants

Chapter 24: Inequality of Justice

"Another form of discrimination in the North against Negroes is in the market for houses and apartments; whites try to keep Negroes out of white neighborhoods by restrictive covenants. The legality of these covenants is open to dispute, but in so far as the local courts uphold them, the discrimination is in the legal principle, not in the individual cases brought to court." (527)

Chapter 29 (Social Segregation and Discrimination), Section 4 ("Sanctions for Residential Segregation")

"When the courts' opposition to segregation laws passed by public bodies became manifest, and there was more migration of Negroes to cities, organized activities on the part of the interested whites became more widespread. The restrictive covenant--an agreement by property owners in a neighborhood not to sell or rent their property to colored people for a definite period--has been popular, especially in the North. The exact extent of the use of the restrictive covenant has not been ascertained, but:

'In Chicago, it has been estimated that 80 percent of the city covered by such agreements...'"

[Cites "Iron Ring in Housing," THE CRISIS (July, 1940), p. 205 and in footnote notes "This an other descriptions of the extent and legal status of restrictive covenants may be found in Sterner and Associates, op cit, pp. 207-208.

This refers to Richard Sterner and Associates, THE NEGRO'S SHARE, "prepared for this study (1943), pp. 205-209.]

"This technique has come up several times for court review, but, because of technicalities, the Supreme Court has as yet avoided the principal issue of the general legal status of the covenants."

[In footnote, writes

"Some have mistakenly thought that the Supreme Court's decision in the recent (1940) case of HANSBERRY V. LEE made restrictive covenants illegal. Actually nothing was decided except that Negroes could move into the West Woodlawn area of Chicago. The case was so decided because 95 per cent of the white property owners of that area had not signed the restrictive covenant, which--by its own terms--called for 95 per cent of the signatures." (1214)]

"If the Court should follow up its action of declaring all local laws to segregate Negroes unconstitutional by declaring illegal also the private restrictive covenants, segregation in the North would be nearly doomed, and segregation in the South would be set back slightly." (624)

Chapter 39: Negro Improvement and Protest Organizations

"Thus, an evaluation of the N.A.A.C.P. requires us to examine the cases won by it and to note the effects of these victories. In the field of residential segregation, while the N.A.A.C.P. has not succeeded in getting the courts to outlaw private restrictive covenants, it has succeeded in having all laws to enforce residential segregation declared unconstitutional. This has meant that the Negroes are not completely ghettoized, and that they can expand in a city, though with much difficulty. More important, the legal fight still goes on, and it is not improbable that the Supreme Court will soon come to reverse its stand on the constitutionality of even the private restrictive covenants." (832)

This WWW page was created by Wendy Plotkin (wendy.plotkin@asu.edu) in 1998 and updated on 1 September 2003.

 

 

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