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(1968) Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co.

No. 645 Argued: April 1-2, 1968 --- Decided: June 17, 1968

392 U.S. 409

MR JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

In this case, we are called upon to determine the scope and the constitutionality of an Act of Congress, 42 U.S.C. § 1982 which provides that:

All citizens of the United States shall have the same right, in every State and Territory, as is enjoyed by white citizens thereof to inherit, purchase lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property.

On September 2, 1965, the petitioners filed a complaint in the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, alleging that the respondents had refused to sell them a home in the Paddock Woods community of St. Louis County for the sole reason that petitioner Joseph Lee Jones is a Negro. Relying in part upon § 1982, the petitioners sought injunctive and other relief. [n1] The District Court sustained the respondents" motion to dismiss the complaint, [n2] and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed, concluding that § 1982 applies only to state action, and does not reach private refusals to sell. [n3] We granted certiorari to consider the [p413] questions thus presented. [n4] For the reasons that follow, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals. We hold that § 1982 bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in the sale or rental of property, and that the statute, thus construed, is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment. [n5]


At the outset, it is important to make clear precisely what this case does not involve. Whatever else it may be, 42 U.S.C. § 1982 is not a comprehensive open housing law. In sharp contrast to the Fair Housing Title (Title VIII) of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, Pub.L. 9284, 82 Stat. 81, the statute in this case deals only with racial discrimination, and does not address itself to discrimination on grounds of religion or national origin. [n6] It does not deal specifically with discrimination in the provision of services or facilities in

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