Black History Moment: Shelley v Kraemer (1948), landmark U.S. Supreme Court case

by Feb 20, 2021Blog0 comments

Recall the five factors that impede African American families from building and passing down wealth and a family legacy through real estate: racially restrictive covenants, contract buying/selling, property tax sales, gentrification, and heirs’ property.

As such, today’s black history moment highlights an African American family from St. Louis, who won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on the issue of racially restrictive housing covenants:
The Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) case – Key Highlights
* In 1945, an African American family (Shelley), purchased a house on 4600 Labadie Avenue in St. Louis, MO.  At the time, that house had a racially restrictive covenant that existed since 1911.
* In response, a neighbor (Louis Kraemer) sued the Shelley family from gaining possession of the house.
* The Missouri Supreme Court sided with Kraemer, stating that the racially restrictive covenant on the house was enforceable.
* In 1948, the Shelley family appealed Missouri’s supreme court ruling to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS), and won their case on appeal.
* The 1948 SCOTUS ruling decided that a state government’s enforcement of racially restrictive housing covenants, violated the U.S. Constitution on Fourteenth Amendment grounds
The Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) case – Significance
* Landmark ruling that struck down the legality of racially restrictive housing covenants, as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause
* Gave credence to the then emerging civil rights movement, encouraging African Americans to pursue social change through use of the courts
* The Shelley family’s 1945 purchase of the 4600 Labadie Avenue house, is now a national historic landmark in the City of St. Louis.
Visit the websites below and/or conduct your own research to learn more about the Shelley v. Kraemer (1948) case:
Nine PBS (PBS St. Louis affiliate): “Shelley v. Kramer”


Natl Park Service: Missouri – The Shelley House  Shelley v. Kraemer (1948)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch news article: “Shelley v. Kraemer, 1948”