The Color of Law: Discussion with Professor Richard Rothstein

Dele Johnson

On Monday March 5, in partnership with the Urban Land Conservancy, The Denver Foundation’s Leadership & Equity team brought author, professor and economic research expert Richard Rothstein to Denver for a series of presentations and discussions based on his most recent literary work, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America.

The Color of Law documents how American cities became racially divided as federal, state, and local governments systematically imposed residential segregation. When these practices were compounded by racially purposeful government programs that depressed African American incomes, it became nearly impossible for people in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage to relocate. 

Rothstein’s presentations to community partners, donors, board members and staff from both ULC and the Foundation with the support of a panel of local experts (Melinda Pollack of Enterprise Community Partners, Andrea Chiriboga-Flor of 9 to 5 Colorado, and Melissa Pluss of United for a New Economy) brought to light how, under our current legal system, it is nearly impossible to design effective policies to integrate the nation. Rothstein argues that we are hobbled by the notion that our segregation is "de facto" (arising from private discrimination, personal choices, and the unintended consequences of economic forces). Rothstein concludes that only when we come to a broad understanding that our racial landscape has been created and maintained "de jure", by governmental law and policy, can we engage in a national conversation to design remedies.

At the bottom of this page, you’ll find recorded live streams of Rothstein’s presentation and panel discussion, as well as links to additional information on the subject.

About Richard Rothstein

Richard Rothstein is a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and a fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and of the Haas Institute at the University of California (Berkeley). He is the author of The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America. The book expands upon and provides a national perspective on his recent work that has documented the history of state-sponsored residential segregation, as in his report, The Making of Ferguson. He is the author of Grading Education: Getting Accountability Right (2008) and Class and Schools: Using Social, Economic and Educational Reform to Close the Black-White Achievement Gap (2004). He is also the author of The Way We Were? Myths and Realities of America's Student Achievement (1998). Other recent books include The Charter School Dust-Up: Examining the Evidence on Enrollment and Achievement (co-authored in 2005; All Else Equal: Are Public and Private Schools Different? (co-authored in 2003).

Additional Resources

The Color of Law; Map of Denver 

Fresh Air on NPR with Terry Gross A ‘Forgotten History’ Of How The U.S. Government Segregated America

The Pruitt Igoe Myth Documentary Film

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