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Shelley v. Kraemer

United States Supreme Court
334 U.S. 1 (1948)


In 1911, thirty property owners on a street in St. Louis, Missouri signed and recorded a restrictive covenant, which provided that no races other than Caucasians were welcome as tenants on the property for the next fifty years. In 1945, the Shelleys (defendants), a black family, bought a house on one of the restricted parcels of land without knowledge of the restrictive covenant. The Kraemers and other white property owners (plaintiffs) in the subdivision brought suit in circuit court to enforce the covenant, seeking to enjoin the Shelleys from taking possession and divest them of title to the property. The circuit court denied relief to the defendants on the ground that the restrictive covenant was incomplete, because not all property owners in the subdivision had signed. The Supreme Court of Missouri, en banc, reversed and directed the trial court to enter judgment for the defendants, concluding that the covenant was valid and enforcement was constitutional. The case was consolidated with a substantially similar case from Michigan before the United States Supreme Court, which granted certiorari to determine whether the Equal Protection Clause prohibits a state's courts from enforcing racially restrictive covenants.

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