When Eugene Burnett saw the neat tract houses of Levittown, New York, he knew he wanted to buy one. It was 1949, and he was ready to settle down in a larger home with his family. The newly established Long Island suburb seemed like the perfect place to begin their postwar life—one that, he hoped, would be improved with the help of the GI Bill, a piece of sweeping legislation aimed at helping World War II veterans like Burnett prosper after the war.
But when he spoke with a salesman about buying the house using a GI Bill-guaranteed mortgage, the door to suburban life in Levittown slammed firmly in his face. The suburb wasn’t open to Black residents.