Buchanan v. Warley

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Buchanan v. Warley
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued April 10–11, 1916
Reargued April 27, 1917
Decided November 5, 1917
Full case name Buchanan v. Warley
Citations 245 U.S. 60 (more)
38 S. Ct. 16; 62 L. Ed. 149; 1917 U.S. LEXIS 1788
Louisville, Kentucky ordinance compelling racial segregation of residential housing was unconstitutional in respect to the Fourteenth Amendment
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Day, joined by unanimous
Laws applied
U.S. Const. amend. XIV

Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1917), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court addressed civil government instituted racial segregation in residential areas. The Court held that a Louisville, Kentucky, city ordinance prohibiting the sale of real property to blacks violated the Fourteenth Amendment, which protected freedom of contract, reversing the ruling of the Kentucky Court of Appeals. Unlike prior state court rulings that had overturned racial zoning ordinances on takings clause grounds due to those ordinances' failures to grandfather land owned prior to enactment, the Court in Buchanan ruled that the motive for the Louisville ordinance, race, was an insufficient purpose to make the prohibition constitutional.[1]


In the state of Kentucky, there was a city ordinance that forbade any black individuals to own or occupy any buildings where therewas a greater number of white individuals resided. In 1915, a man named Charles H. Buchanan, a white man who was seeling his property, brought a lawsuit against William Warley, who was an African-American buyer, to convince Warley that he should complete the purchase of Buchanan’s property. Warley argued that Louisville enacted an ordinance that disallowed African Americans from purchasing property in a mostly white neighborhood. In cases where the situation was reversed, white individuals would not be allowed to reside in neighborhoods where there was a black majority. Warley agreed to purchase the property but refused to pay the full price, arguing because he was not allowed to live in the property that he purchased.[2] Buchanan sued Warley and his suit eventually reached the Supreme Court. Warley ultimately paid Buchanan the full price of his property, recognizing "It is understood that I am purchasing the above property for the purpose of having erected thereon a house which I propose to make my residence, and it is a distinct part of this agreement that I shall not be required to accept a deed to the above property or to pay for said property unless I have the right under the laws of the State of Kentucky and the City of Louisville to occupy said property as a residence."[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Silver, Christopher (1997). "The Racial Origins of Zoning in American Cities". In Thomas, J. M.; Ritzdorf, M. Urban Planning & the African American Community: In the Shadows. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publ. ISBN 0-8039-7233-4. 
  2. ^ "Buchanan v. Warley". Cornell University Law School: Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School. Retrieved November 22 2015.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  3. ^ "Buchanan v. Warley". Justia. U.S. Supreme Court. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernstein, David E. Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights against Progressive Reform. Chapter 5. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. ISBN 0-226-04353-3
  • Nelson, Arthur C.; Dawkins, Casey J.; Sanchez, Thomas W. (2004). "Urban Containment and Residential Segregation: A Preliminary Investigation". Urban Studies 41 (2): 423–439. doi:10.1080/0042098032000165325. 
  • Rice, Roger L. (1968). "Residential Segregation by Law, 1910-1917". Journal of Southern History (The Journal of Southern History, Vol. 34, No. 2) 34 (2): 179–199. doi:10.2307/2204656. JSTOR 2204656. 

External links[edit]

  • Text of Buchanan v. Warley, 245 U.S. 60 (1916) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia