Document Type

Response or Comment

Publication Date



The effort of various southern states to segregate white persons and colored ones into mutually exclusive residential districts has received a final quietus, unless the Supreme Court of the United States shall reverse itself, by the decision in Buchanan v. Warley, handed down November 5, 1917. The suit in this case was for specific performance of a contract to buy land. The contract expressly stipulated that the buyer, a colored man, was not to be held to his purchase unless he had "the right under the laws of the state of Kentucky and the city of Louisville to ocupy said property as a residence." His objection to performance was based on the fact that an ordinance of the city forbade persons of one color "to move into and occupy as a residence" a house in any block in which a majority of houses were already occupied by persons of the other color. The ordinance expressly excluded from its operation persons who had already acquired the right of occupancy of a building or had, by previous rental, established the color of occupancy. The Supreme Court of Kentucky had held this ordinance to be valid and, because of the terms of the contract, a defense to the suit for performance. The Federal Supreme Court reversed this decision and declared the ordinance unconstitutional. The court comments upon the ordinance in some respects as though it denied rights to colored persons bnly, but the court's opinion is not predicated on this, and the ordinance does in fact apply to both races alike.