The Supreme Court: Wide-Open Housing

In the "Reconstruction" that followed the Civil War, the victorious North tried to wipe out every lingering trace of slavery. But three constitutional amendments and more than half a dozen federal statutes could not put an end to prejudice. As Abolitionist Frederick Douglass wrote in 1881: "The colored man is the Jean Valjean of America. He has escaped from the galleys and hence all presumptions are against him."

Still, the liberating laws were there¬ólargely unavailing and unenforced, but there. Last week the Supreme Court reached back across more than 100 years to use one of them to impose a major new...

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