Expert discusses racially restrictive covenants at annual Wolf lecture
By Francie Weinberg
The sixth annual Wolf Family lecture drew a capacity crowd in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center courtroom at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. This year’s guest speaker, Professor Carol M. Rose, presented her lecture on “Property Law and the Rise, Life and Demise of Racially Restrictive Covenants.”
Up until the 1940s it was not uncommon for property deeds to include clauses that restricted the sale of property to whites only. In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled against these racially restrictive covenants, and the practice was outlawed in 1968 by the Fair Housing Act. The lecture offered valuable insights for property law students, as well as those interested in constitutional law and those involved with the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations.
“In the early 20th century, African Americans started to move to cities,” Rose said at the March 13 lecture. “The hope was to escape the violence and oppression of the Southeast, so Caucasians began to take legal routes to get them out of their neighborhoods.”
She went on to explain that though race-restriction laws were Constitution-proof, they were not property-proof. It became harder and harder to sneak a Caucasians-only clause into property contracts.
“The pool of potential white buyers dried up,” Rose explained. “The only feasible buyers were minority members. This resulted in kind of an odd alliance between the white sellers and the black buyers: both of them wanted to get rid of restrictive covenants.”
Rose is the Gordon Bradford Tweedy Professor Emeritus of Law and Organization and Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School and the Lohse Chair in Water and Natural Resources at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. Her book, Saving the Neighborhood: Racially Restrictive Covenants, Law, and Social Norms (Harvard University Press), co-authored with Yale Law Professor Richard Brooks, will be available in April.
The lecture was streamed via live webcast and can be viewed at http://mediasite.video.ufl.edu/Mediasite/Play/4775d77635a741deb45688dbd080d5fd1d.
The Wolf Family Lecture Series was endowed by a gift from UF Law Professor Michael Allan Wolf, who holds the Richard E. Nelson Chair in Local Government Law, and his wife, Betty. Wolf is the general editor of a 17-volume treatise, Powell on Real Property. The treatise is the most referenced real property treatise in the country and is cited regularly by the courts, including several citations in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Wolf family’s strong ties to the University of Florida date back to the 1930s, when Wolf’s father, Leonard Wolf, was a UF undergraduate. Since that time, two more generations of his descendants have made their way to Gainesville to study and work.
Past scholars who have delivered the Wolf Family Lecture in the American Law of Real Property include Thomas W. Merrill, Charles Evans Hughes Professor of Law at Columbia Law School; Gregory S. Alexander, A. Robert Noll Professor of Law at Cornell Law School; Lee Fennel, Max Pam Professor of Law at the University of Chicago; Joseph William Singer, Bussey Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School; and Vicki L. Been, Boxer Family Professor of Law and director of the Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy at New York University School of Law.