Jim Crow Guide: The Way it Was

by Stetson Kennedy 1959


Chapter VI - Who May Live Where

Once you have found yourself a legal spouse of matching color your next problem will presumably be: Where to make a home?

If you are a Caucasian and a Christian, you are more or less free to live anywhere you can afford in the U.S.A.

But if you lack one or both of these qualifications you will find yourself barred by one or more such factors as laws, contracts, conspiracies, and terrorism from buying, leasing, renting, inheriting or otherwise acquiring or occupying a residence in many neighborhoods, both desirable and undesirable.

It is true that Congress passed a law in 1866 which said: "All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every state and territory, as is enjoyed by white citiz
ens thereof to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey, real and personal property."
But that law was repealed in 1894.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution-which was supposed to take the place of this law--does not assert any right to acquire property, but only forbids the states (not individuals) from depriving anyone of property without due process of law.

You can invoke Federal law against such discrimination only if your property was acquired in accordance with some Federal provision, as in the case of public lands made available for homesteading by the U.S. Government.

Needless to say, the restrictions against racial and religious minorities make housing more expensive for everybody. If you are a Christian Caucasian, you have to pay extra for living in a neighborhood restricted to your own race and creed. If you are not a Christian Caucasian, you will generally have to pay more than your Christi= Caucasian neighbors in order to live in a mixed neighborhood. For instance, in a U.S. Supreme Court case it was shown that Negroes living in a mixed neighborhood in Washington, D.C., arc being charged 30 per cent more rent than their white neighbors. Even if you make your abode in some non-Christian or non-Caucasian neighborhood, you will probably be charged premium prices because of the housing shortage created by the restrictions on other sections.

Zoning by Law
For generations, residential zoning on a racial basis was widely accomplished in the U.S.A. by municipal laws, some of which were backed up by state statutes.

These laws set aside certain sections of the city for the exclusive habitation of whites, and consigned all nonwhites to other (undesirable) sections. The Virginia statute, adopted in 1912, was typical:

"The map so prepared and certified and corrected shall be prima facie evidence of the boundaries and racial designation of such districts.... Nothing contained herein shall preclude persons of either race employed as servants by person of the other race from residing upon the premises of which said employer is the owner or occupier."

Such laws were widely adopted in 1910 and in the years that followed. The courts of Virginia, Georgia, and Kentucky, among others, upheld these laws as a valid exercise of a state's powers "to promote the general welfare". North Carolina, on the other hand, ruled that such laws were contrary to public policy (the state at that time-1914-was trying to discourage its Negro citizens from moving to the North).

All racial zoning laws were ruled out in 1915 when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that they interfered with the rights of owners to dispose of their property to whomever they please. Proponents of the laws had argued that they helped to enforce anti-intermarriage laws and promoted more peaceful relations between the races.

Various states have since tried various ways to perpetuate racial zoning, with much success.
Some states adopted laws forbidding anyone to move into a block occupied exclusively by members of another race. Virginia tried a law forbidding anyone to move into a block principally inhabited by persons of another race with whom intermarriage is prohibited by law. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled these out, too.

In Texas, large groups of private citizens drew up signed agreements as to racial boundaries within their communities, and these communities then passed laws to enforce these agreements. But the state courts ruled this out.

In Louisiana, the city of New Orleans passed a law requiring a prospective home-purchaser to get the consent of a majority of the racial group, which predominated, in the subdivision. But a test case was brought, and the Supreme Court said no to this.

In Oklahoma, Governor "Alfalfa Bill" Murray in 1935 declared martial law to enable Oklahoma City to pass a law setting up racial boundaries and prescribing punishment for each day anyone resided out of bounds, including those whose homes were already established. But the Supreme Court, when called upon, ruled against this also.

An untested law in Louisiana says you cannot occupy space in an apartment building in which members of another race also live, even if there are partitions between the races and separate entrances for each (exception is made where persons of one race are employed as servants of the other).

In Alabama, the courts ruled in 192.6 that there is an unwritten covenant embracing all white people in the state not to rent an apartment to Negroes in the same building with whites. In a case where this unwritten covenant was violated, the court ruled that the aggrieved white occupants could sue the owner for (in effect) evicting them, and also claim damages for mental anguish suffered from having to share toilet facilities with nonwhites.
Despite the rulings obtained from the U.S. Supreme Court against racial zoning laws, many such laws remain on the books, and are enforced by social pressure and terrorism just as effectively as they formerly were by court action.

In fact, the City of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1949 proceeded to reenact and enforce an ordinance forbidding Negroes to move into white neighborhoods and vice versa, until again stopped by the courts.

The plain truth is that, whether you are white or nonwhite, any attempt on your part to live under the same roof with anyone of the other race in the South-unless he is your employer or employee will be met with instantaneous police action. The customary charge in such cases is "disorderly conduct". This taboo extends also to whites visiting Negroes in their homes, and vice versa.

You will also find racial zoning now being enforced by municipal zoning commissions, many of which refuse to issue building permits to non-Christians and non-Caucasians in Christian Caucasian neighborhoods.

The Miami, Florida, zoning commission denied a permit for the construction of a housing project for Negroes, following protests by the Press, Ku Klux Klan, and Businessmen's Association that the proposed site was in a section set aside for whites only.
Similarly, building inspector Carl Horns of Milton, Massachusetts, ordered a halt in the construction of a Jewish Center (where religious as well as recreational activities were to be conducted), even though Zoning regulations for the neighborhood specifically permitted the building of "houses of worship".

Still another means of perpetuating and extending racial zoning is through real estate boards and commissions. Many of these organizations of realtors-licensed by the states-have a written or unwritten policy of refusing to rent or sell to non-Christians in Christian neighborhoods or to non-Caucasians in Caucasian neighborhoods.

For instance, the Code of Ethics adopted by the Real Estate Board of Washington, D.C. (1948) provides: "No property in a white section should ever be sold, rented, advertised, or offered to colored people." This Board takes the position that a neighborhood is white if 50 per cent or more of its residents arc whites.

The Georgia Real Estate Commission has revoked the licenses of Atlanta firms accused by Ku Klux Klansmen of selling white property to Negroes.

If a white purchases a dwelling on the assurance of the owner or realtor that it is in a white neighborhood, and it turns out to be in a Negro neighborhood, the purchaser can charge fraud and sue for damages.

Zoning by Covenant
If you are a non-Caucasian-and in many instances if you are non-Christian-you cannot acquire a home in some 40 million dwelling units in the U.S.A., due to restrictive covenants entered into by their previous and present owners.

Such covenants cover about 90 percent of all housing erected in the U.S.A. since World War 11, leaving 10 per cent from which you may choose freely.

Most of these covenants are "perpetual", with each successive owner pledging never to dispose of the property in any manner to a non-Caucasian, non-Christian, or whatever other minority is forbidden.

Among the groups frequently barred-besides Negroes and Jews - are "Orientals, Mongolians, Syrians, and American Indians". The result has been a substantial ghettoization of American life.

In some covenants the language is so vague as to give rise to much confusion. For instance, a West Virginia covenant barring "Ethiopians. " has been held by a court to exclude all Negroes; while in a midians western case the white Native Sons of the Golden West (a Klan-like group) asked the courts to rule that a covenant barring "Orientals" excluded American Indians as well as Asians.

Over a period of years the courts of many states upheld restrictive covenants. In virtually every other state, covenants were adhered to without being tested in the courts.
California-which has a law prohibiting any limitation of the right of property-owners to dispose of their holdings-ruled out covenants against selling and renting to certain minority groups, but upheld covenants barring occupancy. As a result, certain minorities were free to purchase such property, but could not occupy it. Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia took this same position.

Illinois approved bans against both purchase and occupancy in 1937, and New York did likewise the same year. In the New York case, the court enforced a covenant barring the purchase of a certain lot by "Negroes". The couple who wished to make the purchase consisted of a man who was 3/4ths Negro and 1/4th white, and his wife who was 1/8th Negro and 7/8ths white. (Had the court considered the couple as an entity, its composition would have been 9 parts white and 7 parts Negro.)

Some states have held such covenants to be binding even though the covenanted property in time became surrounded by Negroes. For instance, the District of Columbia once refused to let a white man sell his covenanted property to Negroes, ruling that its having been surrounded by Negroes did not necessarily render it unfit for occupancy by whites.

Conversely, Illinois, California, Kansas, and Missouri ruled that when the racial composition of a neighborhood changed, restrictive covenants were no longer binding.
In 1948 a ruling was won from the U.S. Supreme Court that no court may be called upon to enforce a restrictive covenant.

This decision did not invalidate the covenants, which then covered 40 million dwellings, nor did it put a stop to the making of such covenants. As the Atlanta Constitution said, the Supreme Court "backed into a decision that segregation of races in housing may be accomplished by voluntary agreement and such agreements may not be set aside by law".
A nation-wide survey conducted by the United Press in 1949 found no breakdown in existing covenants and no decrease in the number of covenants being entered into. In addition, the U.P found covenants were being enforced effectively by banks and loan companies, most of which refuse to finance the purchase or repair of a home that is "out of bounds".

Besides this, it appears to be possible for a neighbor to sue you for damages if you violate a covenant, by charging that you have caused a depreciation in the value of his adjacent property.

In fact, if you so much as advertise property in a Christian Caucasian neighborhood as being available to Negroes and Jews, you may be sued by persons living in the neighborhood.
On the other hand, even if you are a Negro you have a right to acquire a home close to a white residence in some sections of the U.S.A., some courts having ruled that a Negro dwelling is not a nuisance per se.

But if you deliberately deceive anyone as to your race or religion in order to rent or buy a home, he can go into court and have the lease or sale declared void. This is likewise true if you employ some agent, of acceptable race or faith, to make the transaction for you.
However, if you are prohibited by covenant from purchasing a desired property, you might find it practical to incorporate your family and make 'the purchase in the name of the corporation. A Virginia court has ruled that a corporation has no race; and it would also seem to have no religious faith.

Of course, even in the absence of a restrictive covenant, if you are a member of some minority group you will find that many Christian Caucasians will simply refuse to rent or sell to you.
Negroes were not permitted to rent apartments in the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company's Stuyvesant Town project in New York City, long after a majority of the occupants petitioned the Company not to discriminate.

If you happen to be one of the nearly 100,000 persons of Chinese ancestry in the U.S.A., you will know that 80 per cent of your kind are forced by various pressures to live in the congested "Chinatown" slums of the following cities:

San Francisco


Los Angeles

Washington, D.C.

New York





St. Louis





The "Yellow Ghetto" of the City of San Francisco is the most populous of these, containing 40 per cent of 411, the Chinese in California and 22 per cent of all the Chinese in the U.S.A. According to the San Francisco Housing Authority, 81-9 per cent of the Chinese occupied dwellings in that city are sub-standard, as compared to 19-7 per cent sub-standard dwellings in the rest of the community. Similar conditions obtain in the other Chinatowns across the country.

"The heart of Chinatown is frustrated, perplexed, discontented, restless", reports the Christian Science Monitor. "The patience of the Chinese is legendary. In the United States for ninety-two years they have endured hardship, racial persecution, social degradation, without complaint outwardly, without uprising, without inefficiency. But things are different in Chinatown today. Both the old and the new generation have become highly skeptical, not only of the value of acquiring an education, but of American political ideals."

A classic example of racial "zoning" carried out by the U.S. Government was the forcible uprooting and evacuation of 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coast of the U.S. following the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor. (No such action was taken against Americans of German or Italian descent following the outbreak of hostilities with those countries.)

These Japanese-Americans were confined to barbed-wire concentration camps in the American desert for the duration of the war. After the war, the U.S. Court of Appeals declared that the camps were unnecessarily cruel and inhuman" and "in major respects as degrading as a penitentiary". To this the Supreme Court eventually added that the Government had had no Constitutional right to take such "discriminatory action against these people wholly on account of their ancestry". Many of the persons thus held became so embittered they renounced their American citizenship. An incidental effect of their persecution by the Government was to create such a wave of and Japanese feeling that some Chinese-Americans (soon after Pearl Harbor) felt obliged to wear placards identifying themselves as such, to avoid being mobbed.
While the war was still in progress, California sought to make permanent the grip, which white persons had gained on the extensive holdings formerly held by these Japanese residents; a law forbidding persons of Japanese ancestry to acquire property in the state was adopted, but was overthrown by the courts. At the war's end, terrorism was invoked to the same end.
In a typical case, Army Privates Alvin and Elmer Johnson and bartender James Watson were acquitted at Auburn, California, of attempting to bum and dynamite the home of Sumio Doi, a native-born American of Japanese ancestry whose brothers served in the American Army. The defense attorney made no effort to refute the charges, but instead cited Japanese war crimes. The judge also permitted him to conclude his appeal to the jury with these words: "This is a white man's country-let us keep it so!"

The U.S. Government has almost invariably followed a policy of racial segregation in its housing activities.

In fact, a Federal Housing Administration Manual has declared: "Protective covenants are essential to the sound development of harmonious neighborhoods."

With a few exceptions outside the South, all of the public housing projects built by the U.S. Government are either for whites only or for Negroes only. This is likewise true of U.S. Government housing in the Panama Canal Zone.

Local custom is not the determining factor in all this. For instance, when the Federal Government built a wartime housing project at Willow Run, Michigan, Negroes were excluded, even though there was no tradition of racial segregation in the community.
"The Federal Housing Administration has never insured a loan to build a housing project of mixed occupancy", F.H.A. Assistant Commissioner W. J. Lockwood pointed out in 1949.
In considering applications for loans to build both individual and project housing, the F.H.A. official said that racial, religious, and national characteristics "are given the same consideration as all other characteristics".

"If infiltration will be unacceptable to the local real estate market and desirability of properties will be reduced in the market's mind, the F.H.A. must recognize these conditions", the F.H.A said.

In 1950, the F.H.A announced that thenceforth it would not insure any loans for dwellings covered by restrictive covenants. This created a furor, and many municipalities rejected Federal-housing loans, which had already been approved. To cope with this situation, the F.H.A. issued a supplementary announcement explaining that its ban only had to do with written covenants, thus making it dear that loans could be had for construction of dwellings that would be segregated by other means.

Three years later,-United Press reported: "Republicans and Southern Democrats of the House of Representatives combined today, to reject the first civil rights legislation of the new Congress-an attempt to ban Government-insured loans unless property-owners bar racial or other discrimination." The vote was 49 to 16.

That the problem is a continuing one is indicated by the fact that in 1958 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called upon the Federal Government to hold up an 18,000,000 dollar slum clearance program launched by Atlanta, Georgia, charging that Negro slums were being ignored and that the new construction for whites was designed to accentuate the pattern of residential segregation in the city.

Zoning by Terror
If you are of the Negro race or Jewish faith, you will find yourself barred by terrorism from establishing residence in many American communities. A number of all-white Southern towns display signs at their city limits such as this:

Nigger, If You Can Read
You'd Better Run;
If You Can't Read
You'd Better Run Anyway!

Similarly, the Ku Klux Klan burned a fiery cross in Mattituck, New York, leaving a placard reading:

The Jews Are Invading Mattituck!
No Jews Wanted Here!

That such threats are not idle was shown by an incident at Palmer, Tennessee. According to the Associated Press, Dr. Oscar Clements, white, being unable to find any bricklayers in Grundy County employed four Negro bricklayers from Chattanooga. But the Negroes were driven away by a band of white men who told them, "We won't even allow Negroes to come into Grundy County, much less work here."

However, if you care to run the risk of incurring mob action such as that, you do have, nominally, a Federally guaranteed right to establish residence in any community in the U.S.A. But not since 1903 has the Federal law against conspiracy been used against a community for excluding Negro residents, though such communities continue numerous.

Since the breakdown of legalistic devices for maintaining race segregation in housing has been going on for some time, terrorism in. as the ultimate weapon, is currently being applied in this sphere more than in any other.

Rather much of this activity is of an organized nature, the most prominent groups being so-called Homeowners' Protective Associations.

"Race segregation here is a natural state, and certain groups which agitate against it are unscrupulous and un-American", the president of the Federation of Citizens' Associations of Washington, D.C., has said. Local officers of these groups are often more outspoken.

"It's too bad you can't take a nice healthy club or crowbar and lay the niggers in the gutter where they belong!" said a speaker before the Dahlgreen Terrace Citizens' Association in Washington, D.C.

Some of these associations are fronts for the Ku Klux Klan.

One such is the West End Cooperative Corporation of Atlanta, Georgia, presided over by Joseph M. Wallace, a leading member of Klan Klavern No. 297. This Corporation's slogan is "Not strife, but psychology". Wallace claims to have 1,500 "watchdogs" scattered through Atlanta, who telephone him the moment they see a Negro moving into a white section. A mob is quickly mobilized by telephone, and Wallace assures the Negro of his right to move in-but warns that there will probably be violence if he does.

This procedure represents a refinement over the technique of the K.K.K.'s housing "Kommittee", which simply pays nocturnal visits to Negroes living in white neighborhoods and tells them to move out in ten days or else". In most cases the Negroes move, leaving signs reading:

For Sale To White People Only

The Klan has long served as an unofficial police force for maintaining racial zoning.
When a housing project for Negroes was proposed at Miami, Florida, robed and hooded Klansmen touched off fiery crosses on the four boundaries of the site, burned several Negro homes in the vicinity, and announced from a sound-truck: "When the law fails YOU, call on us!"

Another typical bit of Ku Kluxery came when Mrs. J. W. Sweat, a Negro schoolteacher who had moved into a white neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia, received a letter containing a bullet and a note from the K.K.K. reading: You are not smart

An offshoot of the Klan--sometimes referred to as the "Juvenile delinquents of the K.K.K."-was the Colombians, Inc., a brown shirted storm-trooper movement which cropped up in Atlanta in 1946. The special function assumed by the Colombians was the turning back of what it called the "nigger invasion" of white neighborhoods. Zoning placards were posted, and were backed up by Columbian patrols armed with blackjacks, knuckle-dusters, pistols, and dynamite. A number of Negro homes were dynamited, and one Negro youth, Clifford Hines, was held at gunpoint and blackjacked into unconsciousness for "walking down the wrong side of the street"-even though he had lived on that side of the street for four years.

One of the most common forms of intimidation employed against persons who establish residence in the "wrong" neighborhood is a barrage of threatening telephone calls and letters.
When William Lowe of East Orange, New Jersey, advertised home for sale to either white or Negroes, he received numerous threats, including one which read: Sell to Negroes and Suffer.
Should you persist in living in the "wrong" neighborhood, house may be picketed, stoned, bombed, or burned during the night For example, in Chicago 167 homes established by Negroes in white neighborhoods were bombed during the two years immediately following the end of the Second World War, killing four persons permanently crippling eight, and injuring scores of others. during the following decade, hundreds of Negro homes have been bombed in Atlanta, Birmingham, Miami, and other cities across the country The pattern has been much the same....

When Negro postal clerk Roscoe Johnson purchased a home in white Chicago neighborhood, a mob of 2,000 whites surrounded it and hurled stones and firebrands through the windows. Johnson and his wife were obliged to lie upon the floor all night to avoid being struck. Two hundred policemen assigned to patrol the spot made no effort to disperse the mob.

At Cicero, Illinois, police at first prevented Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Clark from moving into an apartment building occupied by whites. When a Federal court intervened, a white mob formed and reduced the interior of the building to a shambles. Of the 120 mobsters arrested, two were convicted and fined 10 dollars each. A grand jury proceeded to indict the owner of the building, the rental agent, and the attorney of the victim. A year later, Cicero's Chief of Police and two policemen were fined from 250 to 2,000 dollars, but the fines were rescinded another year later by the U.S. Court of Appeals. Eventually, the owner of the building, Mrs. Camille Derose sued the Clarks and eleven other Negroes for 1,000,000 dollars, charging that they had conspired to defraud her and send her to prison and a mental institution (she was admitted to the latter).
Similar violence may be encountered even in connection with housing facilities over which the U.S. Government has jurisdiction. Such was the case when a number of Negroes were stoned upon trying to move into the Sojourner Truth Housing Project, which the Federal Government originally built for them in Detroit. Named after a Negro ex-slave woman who helped slaves escape from Southern plantations to the North, the housing project was diverted for occupancy exclusively by whites at the time of its completion.

In 1951, Miami was rocked by a series of blockbuster dynamite bombings, which did hundreds of thousands of dollars' damage to apartment buildings, which had been built privately for occupancy by Negroes.

When Mr. and Mrs. Carl Braden, white, of Louisville, Kentucky, went to the aid of a Negro whose newly-acquired home in a white neighborhood was tinder sieged by a mob, they were both arrested and placed under heavy bond on a charge of "criminal sedition".
In 1957, when William Myers, his wife Daisy, and their three children moved into a new home in Levittown, Pennsylvania (population 60,000, previously all white), they had to personally carry in their furnishings through a hail of missiles, some of which struck a state policeman and a photographer.

That same year, Willie Mays, Negro center fielder of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, was refused the right to purchase a home on Miraloma Drive. Edward Howden, director of the San Francisco Council for Civic Unity, said: "The shocking rejection of Mr. and Mrs. Willie Mays as neighbors by a handful of Miraloma Drive residents is nothing less than a civic disgrace. Regrettably, it is typical of practices in a large portion of the private housing market today."

It was also in A.D. 1957 that the "American Resettlement Foundation" (a brainchild of Roy Harris, high priest of the Talmadge political machine in Georgia) announced that it had taken an option on a 75,000-dollar six-bedroom, three-bath house in the fashionable Wesley Heights section of Washington, D.C., "a few doors from the home of one of the leading exponents of integration", and that a Georgia Negro family "with ten or fifteen kids" would be moved into it. The neighbor in question was Vice-president Richard Nixon. The Foundation said it would undertake such "resettlement" on a massive scale.

Shortly afterwards, the American Resettlement Foundation (chartered by the State of Georgia) sent five of its officials, headed by Georgia legislator Alpha Fowler, on a cross-country "reconnoitering" expedition which ranged from Kansas City to Seattle. Besides "threatening" to install Negroes in the neighborhood of Vice-President Nixon, they likewise turned their attention to the neighborhood of Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey. Said the committee to the Press: "What we re going to resettle is the blue-gum, stink
ing scum of the earth, the niggers with common-law wives and passels of little black bastards!"
Unique in American history was a reception given in 1958 by William Atkins, white, of Norwalk, Connecticut, to welcome Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Randall, Negroes, to the neighborhood. The party was attended by some thirty white neighbors, and the Randall's' said they were made to feel "more than welcome".

The U.S. Information Agency, in its bulletin, The American Negroes, makes no mention of the widespread violence, which seeks to perpetuate segregation in housing, asserting instead that, "The rapport between the races, where residence is mixed, is very satisfactorily resolved after a period of becoming accustomed".

From Here to Eternity...?

The U.S. Information Agency, in this same bulletin, poses magniloquently the question: "There being no segregation after death, why segregation, then, in life?"

Perhaps the authors were not aware that the notion that nonwhites are not fit to occupy the same ground with whites is enforced in death even as in life in a great many places in the U.S.A.

Not only are Negro corpses commonly barred from burial in white cemeteries; in the nation's capital a cemetery for pets refuses to inter the remains of pets that were owned by Negroes.
For many years, Japanese residents of the Los Angeles area who have sought to bury their dead in the "public" paupers' field have been turned away by the authorities with the explanation that the "Japanese sector" of the burial ground has been filled. The problem of finding a burial ground for these Japanese-Americans has long been a major project of the Los Angeles Japanese Chamber of Commerce.

Not even the original Americans, who once possessed the whole continent, can be sure of finding in death an escape from the color bars erected by the white man. The body of an American Indian who fell in the Korean War was denied burial in the cemetery of his hometown in the Midwest, and had to be transshipped elsewhere for interment.

Segregation is not the only hazard. If you are of the Hebrew faith you may find no peace beyond the grave in the U.S.A., where anti-Semitic vandals vie with their ideological cousins *in West Germany in desecrating Jewish cemeteries. To cite but one clipping from the thick scrapbook:

Albany, New York, May 12, 1958-UP-Vandals roamed through three Jewish cemeteries on the outskirts of Albany last night, heavily damaging three chapels, and ripping up 40 burial stones. The Hebrew Tailors' Cemetery estimated damage to its chapel alone at between 15,000 and 20,000 dollars.



Continue on to Chapter 7