Black History Month: Housing Justice 

At KCHRA, we believe that the impact of Black individuals and communities should be celebrated and honored year-round, but Black History Month offers a good time to pause and reflect. The achievements and impact of Black Americans on housing equity and justice at both a local and national level cannot be understated. 

Here are just a few of the notable individuals and achievements in Black History that pushed housing justice forward:  

The Fair Housing Act of 1968learn more here 

Led by the NAACP and Black organizers around the country, the Fair Housing Act was a major step forward in prohibiting discrimination in the sale, renting, and financing of housing based on a person’s race, religion, national origin, or sex. This meant that racially restrictive covenants and deeds, many written to keep people of color from living in certain neighborhoods, were made legally unenforceable. In King County, while these restrictions are illegal to enforce, many of them technically remain on paper in covenants and deeds.  

This was undoubtedly one of the greatest achievements in housing equality.  

CORE, NAACP, CACRC & CAMP Campaigns learn more here 

Prior to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, Black leaders in Seattle were advocating for the end of housing segregation. A collaboration between the Seattle chapters of Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) and NAACP, alongside the Central Area Civil Rights Committee (CACRC) and the Central Area Motivation Project (CAMP), fought for fair and open housing through non-violence and direct action. 

Seattle Open Housing Campaign learn more here 

For nearly a decade before the Fair Housing Act was passed, Black leaders and community organizers fought for the removal of racially restrictive deeds and covenants. The Seattle Open Housing Campaign, largely led by The Greater Seattle Housing Council, urged the Seattle City Council to pass an ordinance prohibiting racial discrimination in any type of housing. 

Clarence M Mitchell, Jr.learn more here  

Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., chief lobbyist for the NAACP (1950 – 1978), played a critical role in the 1968 Fair Housing Act, which made discrimination based on race in home sales and rentals illegal. 

Edwin T. Pratt learn more here 

Edwin T. Pratt was among those involved in the CORE/CACRE campaigns. As the Executive Director of the Seattle Urban League, he was a leader with notable impact on the push for integrated and equitable housing opportunities. He was assassinated on the doorstep of his home in Shoreline in 1969, at 38 years old. In his short time, he left a deep mark on the movement to integrate Seattle schools and housing.  

E. June Smithlearn more here 

E. June Smith served as the president of the Seattle chapter of the NAACP in the years leading up to the passage of the Fair Housing Act and was the only woman on the CACRC. She was a local leader pursuing an end to housing discrimination by organizing direct action campaigns, including the 1965 march to the steps of the King County Courthouse, protesting discrimination in all facets of life, including housing. 

Larry Gossettlearn more here  

Larry Gosset, King County Council Member (1994-2020), has been engaged in local activism since the late 1960s, when he founded the UW’s Black Student Union. In the five decades since, he has fought tirelessly for equality on all fronts—including housing.  

Notably, he was one of Seattle’s “Gang of Four”, a group of four men of different racial backgrounds who came together to demand justice for all people of color.  

In 2008, the Low Income Housing Institute (LIHI) opened Gossett Place, an affordable housing building named in his honor.  

The Unnamed Black Women learn more here 

As you read about civil rights history in Seattle and around the country, you may notice that there are many unnamed women—many visible in photos, but without credit for their efforts. The work of CORE was often upheld by women in the community, serving faithfully in the background, enabling the high-profile work of the men who are noted in history books. 

The Journey Continues 

To this day, Black and African American Seattle/King County community members disproportionately experience housing instability and homelessness—a persistent legacy of generations of racism and discrimination, in education, health care, the carceral system, and housing.  

We are thankful for the Black leaders in history, and the people who supported them, for leading the charge to pursue housing justice and equality. 

We also know that while we’ve made progress, the journey is far from over.  

We are thankful for the current efforts of Black leaders in our community who fight for equal housing for all—including, but not limited to those who have dedicated their careers to local non-profits and public service in government, those working to change law and policy to create a more equitable housing environment, and the on-the-ground leaders who are still pursuing equality through direct action.  

We remain hopeful for a future with equitable housing for all.