J.D. Shelly v. Louis Kraemer
In 1911 there was a neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri, where thirty-nine people owned fifty-seven parcels of land. In February of that year, thirty of the owners signed an agreement not to rent or sell their property to African Americans or Asian Americans. Such an agreement is called a restrictive covenant. The owners who signed the restrictive covenant had forty-seven of the fifty-seven parcels in the neighborhood. In August 1945, J.D. Shelley and his wife, who were African Americans, bought a parcel of land in the neighborhood from someone named Fitzgerald. The Shelleys were unaware of the restrictive covenant. Louis Kraemer and his wife, who owned another parcel in the neighborhood, sued the Shelleys in the Circuit Court of St. Louis. The Kraemers asked the court to take the Shelleys' land away and give it back to Fitzgerald. The key issue in this case was that if real estate covenants worked to keep minority families from buying houses in nicer neighborhoods. This case relates to the issue of race because J. D. and Ethel Lee Shelley argued that restrictive covenants based on race or color were illegal and unenforceable and that state enforcement of such covenants was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision was made by Chief Justice Vinson said the Fourteenth Amendment made it illegal for state courts to enforce restrictive covenants that discriminate against people because of their race. Vinson said, "freedom from discrimination by the States in the enjoyment of property rights was among the basic objectives sought by the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment declares that all persons, whether colored or white, shall stand equal before the laws of the States." The results of J.D. Shelly v Louis Kraemer was that any private action that goes into court may become state action. This case became the basis for several civil rights actions.
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