One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime

By John Florio; Ouisie Shapiro | Go to book overview

7

With the end of World War II, America had rolled into the Golden Age of Capitalism, an era of economic expansion that affected all industries. New cars rolled off Detroit’s assembly lines and onto freshly paved roads at the rate of seven million vehicles per day. In 1956 President Eisenhower signed into law the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, thereby approving the construction of more than forty-one thousand miles of highways—and providing homeowners with clear paths out of the cities and into the suburbs. Real estate developers encouraged the flight, especially of white urban dwellers, sending them a simple message: living near a black or Hispanic family will kill your real estate investment—and, possibly, your family members.

Perhaps no suburb was guiltier of such sin than Levittown, a hamlet located at the western end of New York’s Long Island. Built in assemblyline style, Levittown owned the distinction of being the country’s first mass-produced suburb. Its two- bedroom homes were erected on concrete slabs with precut lumber and nails shipped from the company’s warehouse in California. When the packaged community was completed in 1951, its seventeen thousand affordable homes caught the eye of World War II veterans looking to start new lives. This was the American dream just as William Levitt had envisioned it: a home, a front lawn, swimming pools, green space, and no blacks.

The color restriction was more than a backroom handshake. It was written in bold, capital letters in the 1947 standard lease-to-buy agreement in the first Levittown homes. Clause 25 read as follows: “The tenant agrees not to permit the premises to be used or occupied by any person other than members of the Caucasian race.”

The clause was removed a year later when the Supreme Court, ruling on a separate case, declared such restrictions “unenforceable as law and contrary to public policy.”

-58-

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One Nation under Baseball: How the 1960s Collided with the National Pastime
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword Bob Costas vii
  • A Note to the Reader ix
  • 1 1
  • 2 8
  • 3 23
  • 4 31
  • 5 43
  • 6 51
  • 7 58
  • 8 65
  • 9 72
  • 10 86
  • 11 100
  • 12 111
  • 13 126
  • 14 129
  • 15 138
  • 16 150
  • 17 156
  • 18 164
  • 19 173
  • 20 180
  • 21 192
  • Epilogue- 1975 201
  • Acknowledgments 203
  • Bibliography 205
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