Racial residential segregation as a system was designed to keep whites from interacting with blacks. It included a series of federal acts that encouraged or mandated racial residential segregation. Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal built segregated housing projects. The 1949 Housing Act, under Truman, financed “slum clearance” programs to clear low-income housing by force (Title I), increased the role of mortgage insurance in obtaining housing (Title II), extended the budget to build over 800,000 public housing units (Title III), and funded research on building techniques and financed farms (Titles IV and V). While this involved the building of many new public housing units, it also involved the demolition of existing housing for the poor and increased the number of bureaucratic and financial hurdles needed to obtain housing. Previously integrated neighborhoods were destroyed and replaced with segregated housing units that remained segregated for generations afterward (Rothstein).
Racist thinking of the time argued that if a black family moved into any given neighborhood, the property values would decline. This racist thinking was used to justify segregation in the WPA (Rothstein). Furthermore, the 1949 Housing Act was passed permitting segregation because Congress feared that if they did not permit segregation, southern Democrats would abandon the public housing program and defeat the bill completely (Rothstein).
Overtly racist laws obviously led to racial residential segregation as well. Anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited interracial marriages kept blacks and whites separated by force. And even seemingly pro-integration decisions, like the Buchanan v. Warley Supreme Court Decision, didn’t outright prohibit segregation, leaving a legal loophole for states to continue to make segregation policies (Rothstein).