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Shelley v. Kraemer

From lawbrain.com

Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (1948), was a property law case decided by the United States Supreme Court that dealt with the enforceability of racially restrictive covenants in a residential neighborhood.

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Summary of Case Facts

This case is actually the combination of two similar cases combined for oral argument before the Supreme Court, one in Michigan and one in St. Louis. In 1945, an African American family (Shelley) purchased a home in St. Louis, Missouri. Unknown to them at the time, a racially restrictive covenant had been in place on the property since 1911. A neighbor (Kraemer) some ten blocks away sought to enforce the restrictive covenant against the Shelley family, which barred “people of the Negro or Mongolian Race” from owning property in the neighborhood. The Missouri Supreme Court held the covenant enforceable as it was an agreement between private parties that ran with the land.


Are racially restrictive covenants invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment? Can such restrictions be enforced by law?

Holding and Law

The court held that racially restrictive covenants were not invalid on their face, in that they were agreements made by and between private parties. However, the court also held that these restrictions could not be enforced by law. Such enforcement would require state or judicial action, which would be a violation of the Equal Protection Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment.

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