King tribute pageIn honor of the enactment of the Fair Housing Act, April is celebrated as Fair Housing Month.

Although the Civil Rights Act ended institutionalized racism in the United States in 1964, a century after the slavery's abolishment, racial discrimination was still common in many neighborhoods. The 1964 law protected the constitutional rights of all Americans and enforced provisions preventing discrimination at the federal level, but the Civil Rights Act did not extend to the housing market.

Changing Times Across the Nation

But housing rights would soon get attention. As veterans began to return from Vietnam, they discovered that racial preferences barred those of color from living in the neighborhoods of their choice. Meanwhile, a series of open housing marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Chicago in 1966 - accompanied by nationally broadcasted images of white outrage - finally put the issue of fair housing firmly on the political map.

Even so, while Congress had discussed a fair housing bill through much of the mid-1960s, not much had been done to make it a reality.

That changed following Dr. King's assassination on April 4, 1968. While the nation mourned the murdered activist and angry riots raged in America's cities, President Lyndon Johnson, sensing that the time was right, pushed Congress to pass the Act. On April 11, 1968, just one week after Dr. King was shot, the Federal Fair Housing Act was finally put into law.

It was a fitting tribute to Dr. King's life's work, and a lasting legacy of a man who had been at the forefront of the struggle for equality in the United States.

From Fair Housing Marin (California)

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