Thursday, August 21, 2014

St. Louis's history of segregation

Jamelle Bouie has a great piece in Slate that illustrates St. Louis's history of segregation and racial inequality:
Like many American cities, St. Louis can’t be untangled from segregation. In 1916, it became one of the first places to formalize racial segregation by designating particular “Negro blocks” where blacks would be concentrated and legally forbidden from leaving. The Supreme Court struck the ordinance in 1917, but private real estate agents and other groups responded with informal means of enforcing segregation. In 1923, the St. Louis Real Estate Exchange created zones in the city’s black neighborhoods to limit the extent of black housing. Real estate agents could sell to black families inside the zones, but would lose their licenses if they sold homes outside the zones.

In 1941—bolstered by federal housing discrimination—real estate agents combined these zones into a single district and adopted “racial covenants” that restricted or banned the sale of properties to black families outside of the district. As professor Colin Gordon of the University of Iowa wrote, “Both the City’s Real Estate Exchange and the Missouri Real Estate Commission routinely and openly interpreted sales to blacks in white areas as a form of professional misconduct,” and by the 1940s, “almost 380 covenants covered large and strategic swaths of the City’s residential property base.”

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