OPEN HOUSING TIMELINE, 1948-1968
1948—May 3. The United States Supreme Court declares racially restrictive covenants legally unenforceable.
1954—May 17. The U.S Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declares segregation in public schools unconstitutional, nullifying the earlier judicial doctrine of "separate but equal."
1955—December 1. Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in defiance of Jim Crow laws in Montgomery, Alabama.
December 5. The twelve-month long Montgomery Bus Boycott begins in response to Parks’s arrest. On November 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upholds a lower court ruling that Montgomery's bus segregation law is unconstitutional. The Montgomery City Council passes an ordinance desegregating seating on City buses. The boycott ends on December 21, 1956.
1956—The Seattle Civic Unity Committee creates Greater Seattle Housing Council to encourage dialog between proponents of open housing and the real estate industry. The Council is unsuccessful in developing an open housing policy.
1957—The State of Washington passes the Omnibus Civil Rights Act making housing discrimination illegal when federal and state government loans are in place.
In September President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends in federal troops to ensure nine African American children can enroll in previously all white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, following a federal court order to desegregate the school.
1959—The Omnibus Civil Rights Act is challenged in King County Superior Court.
1960—February 1. Four African American students begin a sit-in at the Woolworth's segregated lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina.
1961—May 4.The first Freedom Ride bus left Washington D.C. for New Orleans testing the Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional. The Freedom Riders encounter violence and brutality through the summer.
In October the Seattle Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) initiates the Campaign Against Seattle Employment Discrimination which uses selective buying, as well as "shoe-ins" and "shop-ins" to protest hiring discrimination in downtown stores.
On December 11 the Seattle City Council convenes a public hearing to consider a Seattle National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) request for ordinance prohibiting discrimination in the sale and rental of housing because of race, color, etc. The Council declines to act and recommends supporters start an initiative petition to place the measure on the ballot.
1962—Summer. The Housing Listing Service created by twenty four Seattle organizations brings together blacks desiring to purchase housing outside of Central District and white homeowners willing to sell to people of color.
On December 17 the Mayor's Citizen's Advisory Committee on Minority Housing recommends an open housing ordinance banning discrimination in the sale or rental of housing. The report is submitted to Council. Mayor Gordon Clinton and City Council delay action for a year.
1963—The Seattle Urban League and Seattle NAACP resign from the Greater Seattle Housing Council because they believed the Council is not effective in challenging discriminatory housing practices.
The Central Area Civil Rights Committee (CACRC) is formed as a coalition of leading civil rights groups in the area including the Seattle Urban League, the Seattle NAACP and Seattle CORE.
On April 16, Martin Luther King is arrested in Birmingham, Alabama. He writes his pivotal "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" to the nation's clergy, arguing that there is a moral imperative to disobey unjust laws.
On June 12, Mississippi NAACP field secretary, Medgar Evers is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi.
June 15. Seattle Civil Rights advocates stage one of the first protest marches of the decade.
On July 1, four hundred people engage in a march protesting housing discrimination. Thirty-five youth from interracial Central District Youth Club stage Seattle's first sit-in occupying Mayor's office for almost 24 hours
On July 17, the Seattle Human Rights Commission proposed by City Council and Mayor. The Commission is established (Ordinance 92191). Soon afterwards it is authorized to draft the city’s first open housing ordinance.
On July 20 nearly three hundred demonstrators occupy the Seattle City Council Chamber in a sit-in to protest ongoing housing discrimination and the inability of the Council to craft an open housing ordinance.
August 28. Dr. Martin Luther King leads March on Washington in Washington D.C. Over 250,000 join the march and attend a rally at the Lincoln Memorial. Here King delivers his famous "I have a Dream…" speech. Performances were given by Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and may others. Speakers included Walther Reuther, Josephine Baker and Rosa Parks.
August 28. One thousand demonstrators march from First AME Church in Seattle to Federal Courthouse. This march coincides with "March on Washington."
August 28. The Seattle Public School District becomes the first major school system in the country to initiate a voluntary desegregation plan.
September 3. The Seattle Human Rights Commission recommends the City Council adopt an ordinance to prevent discrimination in the rental and sale of housing accommodations.
September 15. Four young girls are killed when the 16th Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama is bombed.
October 20. A march in support of open housing draws 1,200 people. The march ends at the Garfield High School playground
October 25. The Seattle City Council, meeting as a Committee of the Whole, conducts a public hearing on an open housing bill and recommendation of Seattle Human Rights Commission. The Committee of the Whole votes (7-2) in favor of a watered down version of the ordinance. It also votes to remove the emergency clause which allows the ordinance to be referred to the voters. Council members Charles M. Carroll and Wing Luke, both of whom support open housing, vote against the ordinance because the emergency clause is eliminated. This vote reports the bill out of the Committee of the Whole to the Full Council for a final vote.
November 27. The Seattle City Council approves Ordinance 92497, defining and prohibiting unfair housing practices in the sale and offering for sale and in the rental and offering for rent and in the financing of housing accommodations, subject to ratification at the general election on March 10, 1964. Carroll and Luke again vote against the ordinance.
December 9. The City Council approves Ordinance 92533 submitting to the voters by Charter Referendum, the open housing ordinance passed in November. Carroll and Luke continue their protest votes.
1964—In January Charles Z. Smith becomes the first African American judge to be appointed to the Municipal Court in Seattle.
February 12. Tacoma voters defeat open housing legislation by 3-1.
March 7. Over 1,500 attend an open housing rally, marching from several places around the city to converge at Westlake Plaza.
March 10. The Open Housing Ordinance is defeated by Seattle voters 115,627 to 54,448. J. Dorm Braman, an opponent of open housing, is elected mayor of City of Seattle, defeating John Cherberg, a supporter of open housing.
In early June Freedom Summer begins in Mississippi. The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) launches a voter registration campaign in Mississippi. In August the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation is unsuccessful in its attempt to unseat the segregated Mississippi delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.
In June Seattle CORE begins its Drive for Equal Employment in Downtown Stores (DEEDS). CORE attempts to pressure downtown businesses to ensure minorities would equal 24% of all new hires. CORE organizes boycotts of downtown businesses that continue through January 1965.
In June Seattle CORE organizes pickets and sit-ins at local real estate industry offices. A court-ordered injunction terminates the protests.
On July 2, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This legislation prohibits discrimination in employment and public accommodations.
1965—By January the Fair Housing Listing Service has negotiated 50 home sales outside the Central District to people of color.
On February 21, Black activist Malcolm X is assassinated at a rally in New York City.
March 7 also known as “Bloody Sunday.” Approximately five hundred people begin a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery to demonstrate for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at an earlier civil rights march. The marchers are brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies as they attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
On March 20, more than 600 people take part in a "Freedom March" in Seattle supporting marchers in Selma. Open-housing legislation and equal job opportunities are supported at the rally which starts at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church and ends at the United States Courthouse. The principal sponsor of the rally is the Seattle Chapter of the NAACP.
On May 15, Sidney Gerber, founder of Harmony Homes, dies in airplane crash in the Cascade Mountains. In the past year Harmony Homes had built fifteen homes in previously all-white Seattle neighborhoods for African Americans. Council member Wing Luke, a supporter of open housing also dies in the crash.
On August 6, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which prohibits literacy tests and poll taxes which had been used to prevent Southern blacks from voting.
August 11. Riots in Watts begin after two African Americans are arrested by white police officers for a minor vehicle violation in the predominantly black neighborhood in Los Angeles. In five days of violence, 34 people are killed and property damage is estimated at $40 million dollars.
1967—June 8. Operation Equality, a three-year project of the Seattle Urban League, provides assistance and support to African Americans and other minorities seeking housing. The project also sponsors educational seminars and works with fair-housing groups to list available housing. The project receives funding from a Ford Foundation grant, the second grant of its kind in the United States.
In July the Detroit Race Riot begin and continues for five days, leaving 43 people dead, 1,189 injured, over 7,000 arrested. The property damage estimate is $22 million. Also during the summer of 1967, a riot in Newark leaves 23 dead and $10 million in damage.
On November 7, former Washington State Representative Sam Smith is elected to the Seattle City Council and becomes the first African-American to serve on that body.
1968— April 4. Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
April 11. President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing
April 19. The Seattle City Council passes fair housing ordinance unanimously (Ordinance 96619). The measure is adopted with an emergency clause making it impossible to be placed before the voters in a referendum. The bill is introduced by Sam Smith and sponsored by six Council members.
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