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50 Years Ago, America Stood Up for Fair Housing: Two Leaders Embraced a Shared Goal

Martin Luther King, Jr, and President Lyndon Baines Johnson, December 3, 1963 (LBJ Library photo by Yoichi Okamoto)

The struggle to secure fair housing was a lengthy journey that began much earlier than 1968. Whether in cities across the country fighting for open housing ordinances, or legislation introduced on Capitol Hill, much of America remained racially and ethnically segregated from the days of slavery and the succeeding decades of Jim Crow.

April 2018 marks two important moments in American History: the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a civil rights law posthumously enacted as a tribute to the slain leader’s life, the Fair Housing Act.

In 1968, the plight of sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee brought Dr. King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference colleagues to yet another city sweltering with segregation, bigotry and economic injustice. At the time, nearly all the sanitation workers were African-American men, earning a little more than $1 dollar an hour.

During these same days, fair housing legislation was debated on Capitol Hill. The Fair Housing Act co-sponsored by Senators Edward Brooke of Massachusetts and Walter Mondale of Minnesota was passed in the upper chamber on the same day that Dr. King was killed by a sniper’s bullet in Memphis.

In reaction to the King assassination, President Lyndon B. Johnson called for the passage of the Fair Housing Act, in large part as a tribute to the slain leader. On April 10, the House passed the measure and the following day, President Johnson signed it into law. He noted in his remarks that he was signing into law “the promises of a century.”

Despite the law’s protections, people of color, women, families, people with different physical abilities, and others continue to face the insidious nature of housing discrimination. In fact, the mortgage market continues to underserve borrowers of color, especially conventional lenders.

Fair Housing Milestones Fair Housing Protections Risks & Challenges Golden Memories

Honoring the Milestones

CRL is proud to join organizations across the country as events and forums are convened in honor of these milestones:

The Center for Responsible Lending joins with these organizations and others urging that the Department of Housing and Urban Development protect and fully enforce the Fair Housing Act so that all citizens can have access to the promises of America.

We also call on the Federal Housing Finance Agency to stop excessive risk-based pricing in mortgage loans to ensure that all credit-worthy borrowers can access the mortgage credit they deserve. Moreover, any reform of the nation’s housing finance system must include access and affordability at its core.

Learn more about organizations and initiatives related to fair housing.