Shelley House, Part of the Landmark 1948 Decision in Shelley v. Kraemer
This home was once in a predominantly white neighborhood and part of the deed specified that it could only be occupied by white residents. J. D. Shelley purchased this home from an owner who agreed not to enforce this part of the deed, but area whites protested and attempted to force the Shelley family out of the neighborhood. Despite death threats, the family chose to remain and fight in the courts. The practice of attempting to legally prevent minorities from owning real property, known as a restrictive covenant, was common both before and after the landmark decision in Shelley v. Kraemer. The home is a private residence but is also a National Historic Landmark because it was connected to the landmark ruling declaring that racially restrictive covenants could not be enforced by American courts because they violated the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of law.
Backstory and Context
On May 3, 1948, the United States Supreme Court rendered its landmark decision in Shelley v. Kraemer, holding, by a vote of 6 to 0 (with three judges not sitting), that racially restrictive covenants cannot be enforced by courts since this would constitute state action denying due process of law in violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Although the case did not outlaw covenants (only a state's enforcement of the practice), inShelley v. Kraemer the Supreme Court reinforced strongly the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection of the laws, which includes rights to acquire, enjoy, own, and dispose of property. "