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

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

By Richard Rothstein

  • Release Date: 2017-05-02
  • Genre: Social Science
Score: 4
From 219 Ratings


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.


  • Must read

    By mark0196
    A well-written, compelling, account. The book is meticulously argued and supported, while not resorting to less accessible legal verbiage.
  • Government Mandated Discrimination

    By Richard Bakare
    Richard Rothstein has put together a damning account of the federal, state, and private laws & policies that deepened the segregation in neighborhoods across America. Often these mandates created segregation where does none before. Even more disturbing is that many of these efforts to separate populations happened during wartime when we were supposed to be coming together as one country. Imagine how disillusioned Black veterans where when they came back from fighting for their country only to be denied home ownership. It’s no wonder then that the far right doesn’t want anyone reading books like this one. It can’t be read without the anger swelling to a level where nothing can put out the fire but complete and immediate reparations and accountability. Changes that would require some to say goodbye to unearned privileges and wealth. Rather than do that, we know they prefer to dig deeper and let the poison of racism continue to stealthily eat away at the soul of the nation. Those who argue against economic repair are also likely the beneficiaries of equity gains during a real estate value climb during the pandemic unparalleled in history. They also won’t acknowledge that those left out of those gains are the descendants of citizens discriminated against by LAW and not just sentiment. Rothstein finds a balance in the end that offers inclusive and restorative measures that can bring marginalized minority groups into their equitable positions while also desegregating neighborhoods.
  • Eye Opening

    By Dr. Strangelove!
    The Color of Law masterfully makes the case that segregation of contemporary neighborhoods is not de facto, but instead de jure, segregation attributable to the efforts of elected state and federal officials. I picked this book up to broaden my understanding on Red Lining policies and white flight, but I walked away with much more information. Mob intimidation, loan denials, pernicious public works projects, forced relocation efforts, etc. The list is innumerable in how African American communities were forcefully segregated. The lasting symptoms of this de jure state sanctioned violence are seemingly everlasting and deeply corrupting. No matter your political disposition, this is a valuable read. Richard Rothstein has strongly convinced me that some form of rectification must occur.
  • The racial wealth gap truly is the result of state action.

    By EatSleepHoop21
    This book is a masterclass in how segregation created the racial wealth (and health gap), and how these state actions are still very much affecting today. For me, my first high school was 99% African-American, and perhaps it was youth naïveté that led me to believe that’s just how it was, but no, I went to a segregated school. The effects of housing are so entrenched in the lives of Gen X and Millenials. The only way one could think otherwise is because they’ve been misinformed...This is truth to power!
  • Inaccurate

    By -Frank-
    Mostly inaccurate based on cherry picked information.
  • Interesting content, written in a boring manner.

    By Antivanilla
    The contents of the book are worth knowing about, but I had to force myself to read each chapter.