This Day in History: 1948-05-03

The United States Supreme Court issues its landmark decision in Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), striking down racially restrictive housing covenants. The case arose after an African-American family purchased a house in St. Louis that was subject to a restrictive covenant preventing “people of the Negro or Mongolian Race” from occupying the property. The purchase was challenged in court by a neighboring resident, and was blocked by the Supreme Court of Missouri before going to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal. In a majority opinion that was joined by the other five participating justices, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Vinson struck down the covenant, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause prohibits racially restrictive housing covenants from being enforced. Vinson held that private parties could abide by the terms of a racially restrictive covenant, but that judicial enforcement of the covenant qualified as a state action and was thus prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause. Learn more.