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Wed, 11.13.1940

The Supreme Court Rules on Hansberry v. Lee

On this date in 1940, the Supreme Court ruled in Hansberry v. Lee, which rules that whites cannot bar Blacks from white neighborhoods.

Three years earlier (1937), Carl A. Hansberry, a Black businessman and the father of Lorraine Hansberry, defied the Chicago Woodlawn Property Owners' Association by successfully negotiating the purchase of a building at 6140 Rhodes Avenue. At about the same time Harry H. Pace, a prominent Black attorney and president of the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company, purchased a building just east of South Park Way on Sixtieth Street.  Anna M. Lee, a White signatory of the restrictive covenant, filed suit against Hansberry and Pace for $100,000.

When the circuit court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs for equity, the defendants carried their fight to the Supreme Court of Illinois, which also upheld the legality of the restrictive covenant, by a vote of six to one, and ordered confiscation of Hansberry's property.

The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the decision on this date 1940 but did not hold that restrictive covenants are void.  It ruled for Hansberry on a legal technicality, that an agreement between two property owners respecting the number of signatories to the restrictive covenant agreement is fraudulent. The attorney for Hansberry was Earl B. Dickerson.

Historic U.S. Cases 1690-1993:
An Encyclopedia New York
Copyright 1992 Garland Publishing, New York
ISBN 0-8240-4430-4


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