Racially Restrictive Covenants—Were They Dignity Takings?

Carol M Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Racially restrictive covenants—subdivision rules or neighborhood agreements that “run with the land” to bar sales of rentals by minority members—were common and legally enforceable in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. In spite of their demeaning character, these racial covenants took away opportunities from excluded minorities, rather than things, and thus they amounted to something less than the dramatic “dignity takings” that Bernadette Atuahene (2014) describes in her new book on dignity takings in South Africa. In this article, I explore some significant ways in which racially restrictive covenants differed from dignity takings as Atuahene defines them, as well as the shadowy similarities between racial covenants and Atuahene's dignity takings; I focus here on the dimensions of dehumanization, state involvement, and property takings. I conclude with a discussion of remedies, particularly considering measures that restore dignity through both public policies and private actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)939-955
Number of pages17
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • Law


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