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BUCHANAN V. WARLEY, 245 U. S. 60 (1917)

U.S. Supreme Court

Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917)

Buchanan v. Warley

No. 33

Argued April 10, 11, 1916

Restored to docket for reargument April 17, 1916

Reargued April 27, 1917

Decided November 5, 1917

245 U.S. 60


A city ordinance which forbids colored persons to occupy houses in blocks where the greater number of houses are occupied by white persons in practical effect prevents the sale of lots in such blocks to colored persons, and is unconstitutional. A white owner who has made an otherwise valid and enforceable contract to convey such a lot to a colored person for the erection of a house upon it for occupancy by the vendee is deprived, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, of an essential element of his property -- the right to dispose of it to a constitutionally qualified purchaser -- and may attack the prohibition under the Fourteenth Amendment in a suit for specific performance of the contract against the vendee.

A city ordinance forbidding colored persons from occupying houses as residences, or places of abode or public assembly, on blocks where the majority of the houses are occupied by white persons for those purposes, and in like manner forbidding white persons when the conditions as to occupancy are reversed, and which bases the interdiction upon color. and nothing more, passes the legitimate bounds of police power, and invades the civil right to acquire, enjoy and use

Page 245 U. S. 61

property, which is guaranteed in equal measure to all citizens, white or colored, by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Such a prohibition cannot be sustained upon the grounds that, through race segregation, it serves to diminish miscegenation and promotes the public peace by averting race hostility and conflict, or that it prevents deterioration in value of property owned and occupied by white people; nor does the fact that, upon its face, it applies impartially to both races relieve it from the vice of discrimination or obviate the objection that it deprives of property without due process of law. Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U. S. 537, and Berea College Case, 211 U. S. 45, distinguished.

165 Kentucky, 559, reversed.

The case is stated in the opinion.

Page 245 U. S. 69

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