housing policy while simultaneously affording the agency vast inﬂuence overAmerican society.
THE STATE OF THE FIELD
While a handful of scholars have highlighted the FHA’s complicity inracial segregation in American cities, most have overlooked a substantialbody of evidence illuminating the FHA’s agenda and the evolution of itspolicies. Thomas Sugrue’s
The Origin’s of the Urban Crisis
offers an exceptionalillustration of how various bodies of government, including the FHA, erodedthe economic position of African Americans in Detroit. Yet while Sugrueidentiﬁes ways in which the FHA buttressed racist activity in the housingmarket, he neglects the important role the agency played in underminingcivil rights reforms, focusing instead on how private agents in the marketresisted those efforts (Sugrue 1996). Nathaniel Keith, in
Politics and the Hous-ing Crisis since 1930
, provides a remarkable insider’s analysis of the real estatelobby’s inﬂuence on federal housing policy and politics. However, Keithlargely ignores the racial policies of the FHA, focusing instead on conﬂictover race in public housing policy. His chronology of congressional housingdebates does offer interested readers useful background on the broader contextof the changing national political climate (Keith 1973).In “Choosing Segregation,” Arnold Hirsch tackles the issue of FHAresistance to racial integration. He correctly concludes that “a conscious,deliberate choice for segregation lay at the heart of national policy” (Hirsch2000a, 207) and that “political resistance, bureaucratic foot-dragging, andinstitutional inertia” subverted attempts to reform that agenda (211). Thisarticle seeks to expand the direct evidence of internal bureaucratic resistanceto ground Hirsch’s insightful analysis on ﬁrmer documentary footing.Finally, Kenneth Jackson’s groundbreaking
, whoseresearch provides the basis for most of the ﬁeld’s analysis, constructs a“ground-up” narrative of the ghettoization process in which the FHAacquiesced to forms of racial bias already practiced within the housing market.He concludes that the FHA “put its seal of approval on ethnic and racialdiscrimination and developed policies which had the result of practicalabandonment of large sections of older, industrial cities” (Jackson 1985, 217). Jackson’s analysis of the FHA, however pioneering, remains incomplete,primarily because he neglects crucial evidence that suggests a signiﬁcantlymore top-down interpretation of how segregation evolved in America. Inreconstructing FHA policy, he claims that neither “the 1938 nor the 1947FHA
speciﬁcally endorsed ‘racial’ covenants [private,
1.For an analysis of racial policies in other federal agencies, which goes beyond the scopeof this article, interested readers should read Irons (1982) and Sitkoff (1978).