So long as a Negro citizen who wants to buy or rent a home can be turned away simply because he is not white, he cannot be said to enjoy the same right as is enjoyed by white citizens to purchase and lease real and personal property.
The plaintiff, suing for injunctive and other relief in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleged that the defendants had refused to sell him a home solely because he was a Negro, and that such refusal violated the provision of an 1866 federal statute that all citizens shall have the same right as is enjoyed by white citizens to purchase real property. The District Court sustained the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint , and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that the statute applied only to state action and did not reach private refusals to sell. On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court reversed.
Does the statute grant to all citizens, without regard to race or color, "the same right" to purchase and lease property " and does it apply to both public and private acts?
The federal statute barred all racial discrimination by private owners and public authorities in the sale or rental of property. The plain language of the statute granted to all citizens the same rights to purchase property as enjoyed by white citizens. The Court was unwilling to read into that statute an exception for private conduct when the legislative history did not furnish the slightest factual basis for an exception. Pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment, Congress had the power to draft effective legislation, such as the contested federal statute, to eradicate the badges of slavery.