Dr. King and Fair Housing in Chicago

6 04 2008

In January of 1966, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and his family rented a decrepit apartment in the West Side of Chicago for several months to highlight the city’s deplorable segregated housing conditions.

While marching through a openly hostile white enclave of Chicago called Gage Park on a hot summer day that same year, Dr. King and his supporters face hostility and violence rivaling or surpassing what he encountered in the segregated South.

Here is how the Chicago Tribune described it at the time.

As King marched, someone hurled a stone. It struck King on the head. Stunned, he fell to one knee. He stayed on the ground for several seconds. As he rose, aides and bodyguards surrounded him to protect him from the rocks, bottles and firecrackers that rained down on the demonstrators. King was one of 30 people who were injured; the disturbance resulted in 40 arrests. He later explained why he put himself at risk: “I have to do this–to expose myself–to bring this hate into the open.” He had done that before, but Chicago was different. “I have seen many demonstrations in the South, but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today,” he said.

King brought his protest movement north in 1966 to take on black urban problems, especially segregation. Chicago seemed like the perfect battleground. To show his commitment to the northern campaign, King rented an apartment on the West Side.

The Marquette Park march was one of many staged by King’s movement that summer. The protests were designed to pressure the city’s white leaders into making solid commitments to open housing. But King also faced Mayor Richard J. Daley who disdained outsiders pointing out Chicago’s faults. “Maybe he doesn’t have all the facts on the local situation,” the mayor said. “After all, he is a resident of another city.”

Congress passed the Fair Housing Act of 1968 shortly after Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis, TN.

April is National Fair Housing month in large part due to his activism as a fair housing advocate.

(H/T: DMI)

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