Andrew Wade was breaking custom, not law, by purchasing a house outside of what was available to blacks in the 1950s. In 1914, the Louisville Board of Aldermen had adopted a housing segregation ordinance that prevented African Americans and whites from occupying property on streets where a majority of the other race already lived. By 1917, however, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Buchanan v. Warley decision ruled the ordinance (and others like it nationwide) unconstitutional.
Nevertheless, the policies of mortgage companies, insurance agencies, neighborhood associations, and the federal government (through a practice known as “redlining”) worked together to keep residential areas segregated.
In a 1932 report, The Negro Housing Problem in Louisville, city planners described conditions unfit for human beings in the housing available to blacks. They also blamed African Americans for the situation, concluding that slums existed because “the Negro masses [lack] a real desire for decent accommodations.”
Housing was upgraded for many when the 1937 flood displaced both races, leading to the creation of segregated housing projects. This was followed by the war and postwar manufacturing boom years, when high-wage jobs and the GI bill allowed for increased home ownership. Outside of a few areas, however, sellers rejected black buyers, and those who persisted met opposition, of which the Wade family became a dramatic example. When realtors began “opening” parts of West Louisville—which was a majority white area into the 1960s—16,000 whites moved out for fear of declining property values, thus resegregating neighborhoods.
Political cartoon promoting "white flight"