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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

Open Housing, 1968

On the national stage, the publicity engendered by the Civil Rights movement and the outrage at the violence perpetrated against marchers and voting rights activists helped focus attention on inequality in Seattle. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing discrimination in public places and in schools. Outrage was palpable over the scenes of state police brutality against demonstrators in Selma, Alabama, in March of 1965. On August 6, 1965, the President signed the Voting Rights Act.

On the other hand, some national events served to fuel fear of increased racial tension in Seattle. Race riots in Los Angeles in 1965 and in Detroit and Newark in 1967 encouraged the Seattle Police Department to plan for possible riots in Seattle.

Slowly changing attitudes towards segregation in housing as well as increasing fear that racial tensions could explode in Seattle served to trigger passage of an open housing ordinance in 1968.

King March
Seattleites march to honor Dr. Martin Luther King

On April 19, 1968, three weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King, the City Council unanimously passed Ordinance 96619 "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, and defining offenses and prescribing penalties, and declaring an emergency therefore." The ordinance had been sponsored by six of the nine Council members, but the chief architect was first-term Council member Sam Smith, the first African American to sit on the Council. Smith had previously been a tireless advocate for open housing and fair employment while serving as the first African American member of the Washington State Legislature.

The open housing legislation passed in 1968 was amended in 1975 to include prohibitions against discrimination based on sex, marital status, sexual orientation, and political ideology; and in 1979 to include age and parental status. In 1986, creed, and disability were added as prohibitions on discrimination, and in 1999 gender identity was added. Seattle did not pass legislation regarding employment discrimination based on age, sex, race, creed, color or national origin until 1972.

city council
Seattle City Council,
April 19, 1968
Sam Smith
Councilmember Sam Smith
Human Rights Week
Mayor Braman signs a proclamation of Human Rights Day, December 4, 1968t

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