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The Seattle Open Housing Campaign, 1959-1968 - Home
Introduction
Restrictive Covenants
O'Meara v. Washington State Board Against Discrimination
State Fair Housing Legislation
The NAACP Request
The Citizens' Advisory Committee on Minority Housing
Protest: Sit-in and Freedom March, 1963
"An Open Hearing for Closed Minds"
The People Vote
Years of Ferment: 1964-1967
Open Housing, 1968
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The Seattle Open Housing Campaign, 1959-1968

Years of Ferment: 1964-1967

The local chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was one of the community groups actively working against discrimination in housing. CORE formed a Housing Committee in May 1963 and launched an investigation of the charges of discrimination by the real estate industry. In 1964, after writing the Mayor about its concerns, CORE sponsored a protest consisting of picketing and a sit-in at the Lake City and Aurora offices of Picture Floor Plans, Inc., because the company discriminated against non-white buyers. It was owned by the president of the Seattle Real Estate Board. A court-ordered injunction terminated the protests and those working against discrimination in housing turned away from direct action as a method of achieving their goal.

Picture Plans
Picture Floor Plans Demonstration
picture plans
Picture Floor Plans Demonstration
picture plans
Picture Floor Plans Demonstration

Attitudes slowly changed between 1964 and 1968, partially due to voluntary efforts such as the Fair Housing Listing Service and Operation Equality. The Fair Housing Listing Service, created by Sidney Gerber in 1962, worked with 24 organizations and brought together blacks wanting to move out of the Central District and white homeowners willing to sell to minorities. Operation Equality was a three-year program run by the Seattle Urban League to assist minorities in finding housing. The Seattle Real Estate Board issued a Statement of Principle in June 1965, stating that it was the policy of the Board that members should show all listings without discrimination.

In January 1965, the first African American Judge, Charles Z. Smith, was appointed to the Seattle Municipal Court. Some outcries emerged from the community, but Mayor Braman responded in support of the appointment, stating that he "will have a substantial effect in resolving a very real problem that exists not only in Seattle but throughout the nation."

The Human Rights Commission remained active during this period, working to introduce non-discriminatory employment clauses in the City's public works contracts in June 1965. A six-week course to increase consciousness about racial discrimination was introduced for supervisory employees in the City. On June 1, 1965, Mayor Braman issued an Executive Order relating to fair practices, reaffirming the City's policy to protect the rights of all citizens and affording all persons equal treatment.

Reese clipping

Despite efforts by the Human Rights Commission to improve inter-racial relationships, many in the Seattle community were afraid racial tensions were increasing, not decreasing. The American Civil Liberties Union requested a public hearing in January 1965 to review the need for a Police Review Board in response to claims of brutality by the police. City Council denied the request but did agree to review the use of force by the police. In June 1965 an off-duty police officer shot Robert L. Reese, an African American, in the International District.

As a result of this incident, police training methods were questioned and a Community Relations Unit was established. Race relations training was stepped up as part of police training.

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