Tag Archives: Today in History

Hank Snow ► Monday Musical Appreciation

Happy Birthday to Canadian Country singer Hank Snow, the man who discovered Elvis Presley. He would be blowing out 102 candles had he not died in 1999 at the age of 85.

Clarence Eugene Snow was born “in the sleepy fishing village of Brooklyn,

Queens County, on Nova Scotia’s

beautiful South Shore, just down the tracks from Liverpool“, according to his official web site, which continues:

As a boy, Hank faced many difficulties and shortcomings. He had to face

the trauma of his parents’ divorce at just eight years old and he was

forced to stay with his grandparents. He then had to deal with an abusive

grandmother who forbid him to see his mother. He regularly sneaked out

at night and walked the railroad tracks to Liverpool where his mother

was living. Not willing to return to his grandmother, who would often

beat him for visiting his mom, he would sometimes seek shelter in Liverpool’s

railway station, now home of the Hank Snow Country Music Centre.

He learned guitar from his mother. Running away from home at 12, he worked as a cabin boy on fishing schooners out of Lunenburg and bought his first guitar with his first wages: A T. Eaton Special which set him back $5.95. While onboard the ship he listened to the radio, later imitating the Country singers he heard, especially his hero Jimmie Rodgers.

Once he was back on land Snow continued to practice and improve. The WikiWackyWoo picks up the story:

Soon, Snow was invited to perform in a minstrel show in Bridgewater
to help raise money for charity. “Someone blackened my face with black
polish and put white rings around my eyes and lips,” Snow recalls. When
his turn came in the show, he played a song called “I Went to See My Gal
Last Night.” “My debut was a big success,” Snow writes. “I even got a
standing ovation.”[2]

In March 1933, Snow wrote to Halifax radio station CHNS
asking for an audition. The rejection letter he received only made him
more determined and later that year he visited the station, was given an
audition and hired to do a Saturday evening show that was advertised as
“Clarence Snow and his Guitar.” After a few months, he adopted the name
“The Cowboy Blue Yodeler” in homage to his idol Jimmie Rodgers known as
“America’s Blue Yodeler.” Since Snow’s Saturday show had no sponsor, he
wasn’t paid for his performances, but he did manage to earn money
playing halls and clubs in towns where people had heard him on the
radio. He also played in Halifax theatres before the movies started and
performed, for $10 a week, on a CHNS musical show sponsored by a company
that manufactured a popular laxative. At the urging of the station’s
chief engineer and announcer, he adopted the name Hank because it went
well with cowboy songs and once again, influenced by Jimmie Rodgers, he
became “Hank, The Yodeling Ranger.” Snow also appeared occasionally on
the CBC’s regional network.[2]

Signed to RCA Records Canada in 1936, the radio hook-up brought him greater fame and he started touring across Canada. Eventually radio stations south of the border started playing his records and Snow moved to Nashville, where he had a growing audience. In 1950 Ernest Tubbs invited Snow to perform at the Grand Old Opry. He didn’t go over so big until he wrote his first hit song, I’m Moving On:

Even had he not discovered Elvis, Hank Snow would still be remembered today for his music. However, as the Wiki tells us:

A regular at the Grand Ole Opry, in 1954 Snow persuaded the directors to allow a young Elvis Presley to appear on stage. Snow used Presley as his opening act and introduced him to Colonel Tom Parker.
In August 1955, Snow and Parker formed the management team, Hank Snow
Attractions. This partnership signed a management contract with Presley
but before long, Snow was out and Parker had full control over the rock
singer’s career. Forty years after leaving Parker, Snow stated, “I have
worked with several managers over the years and have had respect for
them all except one. Tom Parker (he refuses to recognise the title
Colonel) was the most egotistical, obnoxious human being I’ve ever had
dealings with.”

One of my favourite jokes:

If Hank Snow married June Carter, there would be 6 inches of Snow in June.

But I digress. According to his website:

Snow sold over 70 million records in his career that spanned 78’s, 45’s,
extended 45’s, LP’s, 8-tracks, cassettes and compact discs.

Throughout his life he recorded over 100 LPs, including everything from hit
parade material to gospel, train songs, instrumentals (alone and with Chet
Atkins), tributes to Jimmie Rodgers and the Sons of the Pioneers, and
recitations of Robert Service poems. He has always kept a warm spot in his
heart for Nova Scotia, and he paid homage with his album “My Nova Scotia
Home”. He also recorded “Squid Jiggin’ Ground” in honor of the fishermen he
sailed with out of Lunenburg in his early youth.
Every August Liverpool, Nova Scotia, holds a multi-day Hank Snow Tribute. This year’s shindig will happen August 18-21 and tickets are already available. However, as Not Now Silly likes to say: It’s all in the grooves. This is why people still sing and play Hank Snow tunes:

The Birthday of the Ku Klux Klan ► Throwback Thursday

As the south grapples with removing the names of Confederate traitors from buildings and monuments, it’s a good time to remember the Ku Klux Klan was formed exactly 150 years ago today.

Wait. That’s a not entirely true. It’s more accurate to say the first iteration of the Ku Klux Klan was formed on this date in 1865. There were two others.

Three, if you count what’s been going on in this election cycle.

“I’m so glad we’re living in a post-racial society” is something I say frequently on Facebook and Twitter. I am always being sarcastic because I’ve never thought racism was eradicated. Ten years ago, when I first moved back to the States, I had people come up to me and say the most racist things, thinking we belonged to the same White skin club. And, this was before that Muslim Obama (/sarcasm) smoked out all the current racists.

According to History.com:

The organization of the Ku Klux Klan coincided with the beginning of the second phase of post-Civil War Reconstruction,
put into place by the more radical members of the Republican Party in
Congress. After rejecting President Andrew Johnson’s relatively lenient
Reconstruction policies, in place from 1865 to 1866, Congress passed the
Reconstruction Act over the presidential veto. Under its provisions,
the South was divided into five military districts, and each state was
required to approve the 14th Amendment, which granted “equal protection”
of the Constitution to former slaves and enacted universal male

From 1867 onward, African-American participation in public life in
the South became one of the most radical aspects of Reconstruction, as
blacks won election to southern state governments and even to the U.S.
Congress. For its part, the Ku Klux Klan dedicated itself to an
underground campaign of violence against Republican leaders and voters
(both black and white) in an effort to reverse the policies of Radical
Reconstruction and restore white supremacy in the South. They were
joined in this struggle by similar organizations such as the Knights of
the White Camelia (launched in Louisiana
in 1867) and the White Brotherhood. At least 10 percent of the black
legislators elected during the 1867-1868 constitutional conventions
became of violence during Reconstruction, including seven who
were killed. White Republicans (derided as “carpetbaggers” and
“scalawags”) and black institutions such as schools and churches—symbols
of black autonomy—were also targets for Klan attacks.

By 1870, the Ku Klux Klan had branches in nearly every southern
state. Even at its height, the Klan did not boast a well-organized
structure or clear leadership. Local Klan members–often wearing masks
and dressed in the organization’s signature long white robes and
hoods–usually carried out their attacks at night, acting on their own
but in support of the common goals of defeating Radical Reconstruction
and restoring white supremacy in the South. Klan activity flourished
particularly in the regions of the South where blacks were a minority or
a small majority of the population, and was relatively limited in
others. Among the most notorious zones of Klan activity was South Carolina, where in January 1871 500 masked men attacked the Union county jail and lynched eight black prisoners.


The Ku Klux Klan was eventually broken up by the Federal government, which passed the Enforcement Act of 1871 (aka the Civil Rights Act or the Ku Klux Klan Act). Then it took measures to arrest and convict the terrorists attacking Black folk in the south.

Then came the sequel. From the WikiWackyWoo:

Refounding in 1915

In 1915 the film The Birth of a Nation was released, mythologising and glorifying the first Klan and its endeavors. The second Ku Klux Klan was founded in 1915 by William Joseph Simmons at Stone Mountain, outside Atlanta, with fifteen “charter members”.[86] Its growth was based on a new anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, prohibitionist
and anti-semitic agenda, which reflected contemporary social tensions,
particularly immigration and industrialization. The new organization and
chapters adopted regalia featured in The Birth of a Nation.

The Birth of a Nation

Director D. W. Griffith‘s The Birth of a Nation glorified the original Klan. His film was based on the book and play The Clansman and the book The Leopard’s Spots, both by Thomas Dixon, Jr.

Much of the modern Klan’s iconography, including the standardized
white costume and the lighted cross, are derived from the film. Its
imagery was based on Dixon’s romanticized concept of old England and
Scotland, as portrayed in the novels and poetry of Sir Walter Scott. The film’s influence was enhanced by a purported endorsement by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson,
a Southerner. A Hollywood press agent claimed that after seeing the
film Wilson said, “It is like writing history with lightning, and my
only regret is that it is all so terribly true.” Historians doubt he
said it.[87]
Wilson felt betrayed by Dixon, who had been a classmate. Wilson’s staff
issued a denial, saying he was entirely unaware of the nature of the
play before it was presented and at no time has expressed his
approbation of it.”[88]

The new Klan was inaugurated in 1915 by William Joseph Simmons on top of Stone Mountain.
It was a small local organization until 1921. Simmons said he had been
inspired by the original Klan’s Prescripts, written in 1867 by
Confederate veteran George Gordon, but they were never adopted by the first Klan.[89]

The third Klan is generally accepted to be that time after World War II, through the Civil Rights Era of the ’60s.

Today there has been a reemergence Ku Klux Klan. The Klan’s former leader came out in support of Donald Trump, whose racist and xenophobic rants have energized the White Power Movement.

Everything old is new again.

Wright Flight ► Throwback Thursday

On this day in 1903, the Wright Brothers made the first successful flight of a heavier-than-air plane powered by its own motor. And, nothing was ever the same again.

According to the WikiWackyWoo:

The U.S. Smithsonian Institution
describes the aircraft as “the first powered, heavier-than-air machine
to achieve controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard.”[2] The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
described the 1903 flight during the 100th anniversary in 2003 as “the
first sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight.”[3] The Flyer I’s date of its first flight generally marks the beginning of the “pioneer era” of aviation.

People have dreamed of flying, ever since we saw our first bird. We’ve now had 112 years of flight and airlines still lose people’s luggage.

The Wiki also tells us:

Orville Wright
Wilber Wright

The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two American brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who are credited[1][2][3] with inventing and building the world’s first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903. From 1905 to 1907, the brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft.
Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the
Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made
fixed-wing powered flight possible.

To quote myself from 3 years ago:

Inventors around the globe were looking for a way to control flight,
including bicycle salesmen Orville and Wilbur Wright. The idea began
with them in 1899, when Wilbur wrote to the Smithsonian Institution
asking for info on aeronautics. The brothers spent the next several
years working on their invention, realizing that they should perfect
controlled glider flight before adding an engine to their airplane.
There were many failures, but the Wright Brothers kept refining the
glider until they were able to control its flight. In 1903 they added an
engine and traveled to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, their perennial
testing ground. On December 14, Wilbur — who won a coin toss — took a
3-second flight, but the engine stalled after take-off and the
subsequent crash made repairs necessary. On December 17, 1903, this time
with Orville behind the controls, they succeeded with the “first controlled, powered, and sustained heavier than air human flight.
It doesn’t sound like much today, but Orville traveled 120 feet in 12
seconds about 10 feet above the ground, which works out to about 6.8
MPH. Exactly one photograph was taken of the historical event.

Other early attempts at flight were not nearly as successful:

FULL DISCLOSURE: The truth of the matter is that one of the reasons I take my marathon road trips is because I have an inner ear problem. Flying, in a pressurized cabin, makes me wonky. When I get off a plane I am dizzy for days, as if I just got off the wildest ride at the C.N.E., with a migraine that lasts several days. It’s a leftover symptom of the vestibular disorder I had several years ago.

Happy flying!!!

The Gettysburg Address ► Throwback Thursday

On this day in 1863 President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, considered one of the greatest speeches ever given in English.

A mere 271 words, the Gettysburg Address followed the dedication of the Soldiers’ National Cemetery by Edward Everett. That speech must have exhausted the crowd. It lasted more than 2 hours and contained more than 13,600 words.

Lincoln’s short speech lasted only a few minutes, but has gone down in history as one of the greatest of his career.

As the WikiWackyWoo explains, Lincoln was under the weather at the time:

During the train trip from Washington, D.C., to Gettysburg on November 18, Lincoln remarked to John Hay that he felt weak. On the morning of November 19, Lincoln mentioned to John Nicolay
that he was dizzy. In the railroad car the President rode with his
secretary, John G. Nicolay, his assistant secretary, John Hay, the three
members of his Cabinet who accompanied him, William Seward, John Usher and Montgomery Blair,
several foreign officials and others. Hay noted that during the speech
Lincoln’s face had ‘a ghastly color’ and that he was ‘sad, mournful,
almost haggard.’ After the speech, when Lincoln boarded the 6:30 pm
train for Washington, D.C., he was feverish and weak, with a severe
headache. A protracted illness followed, which included a vesicular rash
and was diagnosed as a mild case of smallpox. It thus seems highly likely that Lincoln was in the prodromal period of smallpox when he delivered the Gettysburg address.[10]

The Hay version of the speech

Yet, there’s no agreed upon text of the speech:

Despite the historical significance of Lincoln’s speech, modern
scholars disagree as to its exact wording, and contemporary
transcriptions published in newspaper accounts of the event and even
handwritten copies by Lincoln himself differ in their wording,
punctuation, and structure.[16][17]
Of these versions, the Bliss version, written well after the speech as a
favor for a friend, is viewed by many as the standard text.[18]
Its text differs, however, from the written versions prepared by
Lincoln before and after his speech. It is the only version to which
Lincoln affixed his signature, and the last he is known to have written.[18]

Here is the text that every grade school child memorized:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this
continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation,
or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are
met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a
portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave
their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and
proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate,
we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who
struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or
detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,
but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living,
rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who
fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be
here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these
honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they
gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that
these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God,
shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by
the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

All Hail the King of Late Night Talk Shows ► Throwback Thursday

The undisputed King of Late Night is — and forever will be — Johnny Carson. On this day in 1962, Carson took the helm of The Tonight Show, and nothing was ever the same again.

Carson didn’t invent the modern talk show. That honour goes to Steve Allen. However, Carson reinvented the talk show and kept reinventing it night after night for 30 years, racking up nearly 5,000 shows. But it wasn’t his endurance that made Johnny Carson a star. According to Biography:

Audiences found comfort in Carson’s calm and steady presence in their living rooms each evening. Revered for his affable personality, quick wit and crisp interviews, he guided viewers into the late night hours with a familiarity they grew to rely on year after year. Featuring interviews with the stars of the latest Hollywood movies or the hottest bands, Carson kept Americans up-to-date on popular culture, and reflected some of the most distinct personalities of his era through impersonations, including his classic take on President Ronald Reagan. Carson created several recurring comedic characters that popped up regularly on his show, including Carnac the Magnificent, an Eastern psychic who was said to know the answers to all kinds of baffling questions. In these skits, Carson would wear a colorful cape and featured turban and attempt to answer questions on cards before even opening their sealed envelopes. Carson, as Carmac, would demand silence before answering questions such as “Answer: Flypaper.” “Question: What do you use to gift wrap a zipper?”

In August I was thrilled when Variety announced Johnny Carson Returns: Antenna TV to Air Full ‘Tonight Show’ Episodes starting January 1st:

Antenna TV has struck a multi-year deal with Carson Entertainment Group to license hundreds of hours of the NBC late-night institution. Antenna will run episodes that aired from 1972 through the end of Carson’s 30-year reign in in 1992. Because NBC owns the rights to “The Tonight Show” moniker, Antenna TV’s episodes will be billed simply as “Johnny Carson.”

“This is not a clip show. This is full episodes of Johnny Carson, the man that everyone in late-night agrees was the greatest host of all time, airing in real time as he did back in the day,” Sean Compton, Tribune’s president of strategic programming and acquisitions, told Variety. “Tuning in to ‘The Tonight Show’ is like taking a walk down Main Street in Disneyland. The minute you step in there, you feel good and you know it’s a place you want to stay. We cannot wait to bring this show to fans who remember Carson and to a new generation of viewers who have never had the chance to see Johnny in his prime.”

Starting January 1st we’ll see more comedy brilliance like this:

50 Years Ago ► St. Augustine Beaches Integrated ► History Is Complicated

Florida Memory reminds us that it took blood and guts to integrate Florida beaches. On this day — June 25, 1964 — White segregationists attacked the participants of a “Wade-In” at St. Augustine, Florida:

Demonstrators held several nonviolent “wade-ins” at segregated hotel pools and beaches. This film shows footage taken by the Florida Highway Patrol of one of the largest demonstrations, a wade-in held at St. Augustine Beach on June 25, 1964 (see full-length version).

Civil rights leaders, such as Martin Luther King Jr., came to northeast Florida to show their support for the Movement. King is said to have remarked that St. Augustine was “the most segregated city in America” at the time. He pledged to defeat segregation using nonviolence, even “if it takes all summer.”

Fort Lauderdale’s beaches were integrated a few years earlier. Two years ago Fort Lauderdale celebrated 50 years of integrated beaches, which began with illegal Wade Ins in 1961. According to CBS Miami:
On July 4, 1961, Lorraine Mizell, her sister, her uncle and some friends waded into the ocean on a beach where blacks were not allowed. Mizell would later say she didn’t know how significant her actions would be.

Fort Lauderdale’s beaches had been segregated since 1927. Civil rights pioneer Eula Johnson led wade-ins like Mizell’s over the summer of 1961 in spite of threats. A year later, a state judge ruled against the city and its whites-only beach policy.

As the Sun Sentinel tells it:

Lorraine Mizell remembers the looks of disgust and catcalls as she crossed the sand. She remembers other beachgoers fleeing from the water as she waded in.

She remembers not being afraid.

For the 19-year-old college freshman, the Fourth of July in 1961 started with a phone call from her uncle. He wanted to know if she, her sister and some of their friends would like to go to the beach with him.

Their outing will be commemorated on Monday as a turning point in the history of Fort Lauderdale and racial equality.

Her uncle, Von D. Mizell, and fellow civil rights activist Eula Johnson had decided the time had come to force the city to open its beaches to all people, both black and white. July 4 began a series of wade-ins that led to a court-ordered end of segregation on Fort Lauderdale beaches.

“When we did it, I didn’t realize how significant it would be,” said Lorraine Mizell, now 69. “I knew we were doing something to break down barriers. This was a beach that I had never been able to go to, never able to put my feet in the sand. But I didn’t know we were going to be able to change things.”

If this whetted your appetite read this PDF: The Long Hard Fight for Equal Rights: A History of Broward County’s Colored Beach and the Fort Lauderdale Beach ‘Wade-ins’ of the summer of 1961

Fifty years is not that long ago and fifty years later there are still inequities built into the system.

Happy Birthday Frank Lloyd Wright

Dateline June 8, 1867 – Frank Lloyd Wright is born in Wisconsin. By the time he died at the age of 92, he would be considered the greatest architect that ever lived.

By 1956 Wright was so famous that the What’s My Line panel had to be blindfolded when he Wright appeared before them. And, as usual, Dorothy Kilgallen was the smartest person in the room.

If you were to remove all the buildings from the equation, Frank Lloyd Wright still lived a life that can hardly be believed. At the height of his initial fame, with a wife and 7 children, he ran away with a client’s wife. While in Europe he was denounced from pulpits across the country and he lost all commissions. People thought his career was over. However, he eventually returned to the States with Memeh Cheney and started all over again from the bottom.

Wright built Taliesin and restarted his career, reaching new heights. Then one tragic day in 1914, while Wright was off working on a building, a male servant set fire to Taliesin during a lunch Mameh was hosting. As people fled the smoke-filled dining room, Julian Carlton hacked seven people to death with an axe. Among the dead was Mameh Cheney and her two children. Wright was shattered.

But, it’s all about the buildings. It didn’t hurt that Wright was a consummate salesman and his #1 product was Frank Lloyd Wright.

More than anything else Frank Lloyd Wright changed the way all suburbs looked. His beautiful Prairie Home was copied tens of millions of times over by bad architects to become the ranch-style house that crowds out good architecture in our suburban landscape.



Happy Birthday Chuck Barris

Today all of ‘Merka is celebrating the 84th birthday of game show producer, Gong Show Host, and paid CIA assassin Chuck Barris. 

Barris is often called the Father of Reality Television, a smear he has tried to live down. However, few people realize that long before he launched The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show, he wrote Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon’s greatest hit, “Palisades Park.”

Less known is his career as a CIA hit man who rubbed people out in exotic locations around the world, while chaperoning Dating Game couples who won All Expense Paid Trips™. Barris repented in his “unauthorized autobiography” Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. The book was so compelling that director George Clooney felt compelled to turn it into a docudrama, with great effect.

However, no matter how many bad people he’s killed (33 at last report), Chuck Barris will never have been a greater service to his country than he was when he created The Gong Show. Your argument is invalid.

This segment was censored before being broadcast to the west coast



Happy Birthday Chuck Barris

Today all of ‘Merka is celebrating the 84th birthday of game show producer, Gong Show Host, and paid CIA assassin Chuck Barris. 

Barris is often called the Father of Reality Television, a smear he has tried to live down. However, few people realize that long before he launched The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game and The Gong Show, he wrote Freddie “Boom Boom” Cannon’s greatest hit, “Palisades Park.”

Less known is his career as a CIA hit man who rubbed people out in exotic locations around the world, while chaperoning Dating Game couples who won All Expense Paid Trips™. Barris repented in his “unauthorized autobiography” Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. The book was so compelling that director George Clooney felt compelled to turn it into a docudrama, with great effect.

However, no matter how many bad people he’s killed (33 at last report), Chuck Barris will never have been a greater service to his country than he was when he created The Gong Show. Your argument is invalid.

This segment was censored before being broadcast to the west coast



Homeowners’ Associations Invented To Discriminate ► History Is Complicated


Dateline May 3, 1948 – The Supreme Court ruled that restrictive covenants in real estate deeds — which specifically barred sales to Blacks, Jews, and other minorities — was illegal. Prior to that date the courts had ruled these discriminatory practices were simply matters between private contractors, and the courts had been there to enforce these restrictive covenants in deeds for decades.

Contractually enforced discrimination has long, proud history in ‘Merka, going back to the original Founding Fathers and their cruel compromise, counting Black folk as 3/5ths a person and leaving the “peculiar institution” of slavery intact. Hell, a whole war was fought over it.

When the country was built on such a crass foundation, is it any wonder that whole generations of people came to feel privileged? So privileged, in fact, that people thought nothing of putting down that privilege in their real estate deals. The idea really started to take off in the 1920s, when planned communities like Coral Gables became the suburban norm as people started moving out of congested cities. What we now call White Flight can traced to these earliest migrations; it wasn’t just congestion that some people wanted to escape. Blacks and Jews were other ills of cities that people wanted to move away from. The best way to assure yourself that you won’t have to live among THEM is to put restrictive covenants in property deeds, which specifically spelled out to whom you could sell your own property. Therefore, you would be assured that you would only be living among your own kind by moving into planned communities with exclusionary covenants. According to the WikiWackyWoo

Example of a restrictive Florida deed:

6. At no time shall the land included in said tract
or any part theorof, or any building located thereon,
be occupied by any negro or person, of negro extraction.
This prohibition, however, is not intended to include the
occupancy of a negro domestic servant or other person
while employed in or about the premises by the owner or
occupant of any land in said tract.

In the 1920s and 1930s, covenants that restricted the sale or occupation of real property on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion or social class were common in the United States, where the primary intent was to keep “white” neighbourhoods “white”. Such covenants were employed by many real estate developers to “protect” entire subdivisions. The purpose of an exclusionary covenant was to prohibit a buyer of property from reselling, leasing or transferring the property to members of a given race, ethnic origin and/or religion as specified in the title deed. Some covenants, such as those tied to properties in Forest Hills Gardens, New York, also sought to exclude working class people however this type of social segregation was more commonly achieved through the use of high property prices, minimum cost requirements and application reference checks. In practice, exclusionary covenants were most typically concerned with keeping out African-Americans, however restrictions against Asian-Americans, Jews and Catholics were not uncommon. For example, the Lake Shore Club District in Pennsylvania, sought to exclude various minorities including Negro, Mongolian, Hungarian, Mexican, Greek and various European immigrants.[18] Cities known for their widespread use of racial covenants include Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles.


Racial covenants emerged during the mid-nineteenth century and started to gain prominence from the 1890s onwards. However it was not until the 1920s that they adopted widespread national significance, a situation that continued until the 1940s. Some commentators have attributed the popularity of exclusionary covenants at this time as a response to the urbanisation of black Americans following World War I, and the fear of “black invasion” into white neighbourhoods, which they felt would result in depressed property prices, increased nuisance (crime) and social instability.

The Shelley House,
4600 Labadie,
St. Louis, Missouri

In 1945 Louis Kraemer sued to prevent the Shelley family from occupying the house they purchased in St. Louis. The Shelleys were Black and there had been a restrictive covenant on the land since 1911, which the family had been unaware of when they made their purchase. Kraemer knew, however, and sued. He was counting on the courts to uphold the contract and keep the Black Shelley family out of the neighbourhood.

The Missouri Supreme Court obliged, ruling as courts had been doing for
decades, that the deed was a private agreement, attached to the land.
Because it was estate law, as opposed to personal, the contract could be
enforced by a third party such as Louis Kraemer, who wanted to keep his
lily White neighbourhood lily White. Shelley appealed the Missouri

The Orsel and Minnie McGhee House

By 1948 The Supreme Court was ready to decide Shelley v. Kraemer, which came with a companion case along the same lines. McGhee v. Sipes was a case that had bubbled up from Detroit, where the McGhees had purchased property that came with restrictive covenant. By then Detroit had already gone through several racial spasms, such as the Ossian Sweet trial in the 1920s and the 1943 Riot.

Then Orsel and Minnie McGhee purchased the house at 4626 Seebaldt in Detroit, in which they had been living as tenants for a decade. A neighbourhood group decided to sue to uphold the restrictive covenant in the deed and Sipes became the plaintiff in that case. It too was decided in favour of the discriminatory covenant. It was also appealed. When it came up to the Supreme Court it was rolled in with Shelley v. Kelley. Lawyers for the defendants, including Thurgood Marshall for the McGhees, argued their positions under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

I’m a sucker for historical markers.
Courtesy of Detroit: The History and Future of the Motor City

The Supreme Court didn’t QUITE rule the restrictive covenant was illegal under the 14th Amendment. The court ruled that contracts between private parties can still have restrictive covenants, which the parties can choose to abide by, or not, depending. However, the Supreme Court ALSO ruled that parties in dispute over restrictive covenants could no longer expect judicial review of these contracts because for a court to uphold the contract it would necessarily violate the Equal Protection Act of the Constitution.

And, let’s be clear: The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelley v. Kraemer didn’t end discrimination in housing. It just took new and different forms. Redlining was one way of restricting a neighbourhood. Condo and Homeowners Association Boards have their own ways of restricting who gets in.

As an aside: The Condo Association my parents moved into, and which I now reside to help take care of him, is predominantly White, while the surrounding associations (all a part of a much larger condo complex with several association boards) are far more mixed in the number of Blacks and Latino residents. That doesn’t happen by accident.

Just as Coral Gables being 98% White is no accident.

Additional Reading at Not Now Silly:

The Detroit Riots: Unpacking My Detroit ► Part Five

The 1943 Riot ► Unpacking My Detroit ► Part 5.1
No Skin In The Game ► Part One

No Skin In The Game ► Part Two

No Skin In The Game ► Part Three

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby – NYT Decides To Capitalize Negro
Montgomery Bus Boycott ► Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used To Be
Happy Birthday Coconut Grove!!! Now Honour Your Past
An Introduction to Trolleygate
The Bible, Subliminal Satan, and Racism
Bulldozing Cultural History