bhm banner

 

The Housing Opportunities Commission is proud to celebrate Black History Month. This national month of recognition allows us to reflect on the richness and depth of achievements made by African Americans throughout history. We aim to honor the strength, resilience and creativity that are central to the culture and experience of Black people in the U.S. As a salute to the pioneering spirit of the African American community, we invite you to read below about notable trailblazers who have made important contributions to housing.

“During this Black History Month, and for many to come, we must never forget the dream—and fight for a new inheritance, one woven not of exclusion but instead of that universal human spirit that calls us each home.” – Dr. Raphael Bostic

 

Senator Edward Brooke

Senator Edward Brooke


Senator Edward Brooke
was the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote in 1966. He represented Massachusetts in the Senate from 1967 to 1979. Brooke was an important champion of civil rights and fair housing policies--sponsoring, with Senator Walter Mondale, the 1968 federal Fair Housing Act. In his testimony supporting the Act, Senator Brooke cited his difficulties finding a home after he returned from service in World War II to illustrate the racial prejudice in the American housing market. Senator Brooke remained a leading advocate for affordable housing during his time in the Senate, supporting key provisions of the 1974 Housing and Community Development Act. In 2004, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, and in 2009 he was awarded the highest honor Congress can bestow, the Congressional Gold Medal, for his contributions to civil rights and fair housing.

 

Thurgood Marshall

Thurgood Marshall

 

Thurgood Marshall (1st Thurgood Marshall (1908 – 1993) was a civil rights advocate and the nation’s first Black U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Between 1934 and 1961, Marshall traveled as an attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), representing all manner of clients whenever a case involved questions of racial justice. He argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court, prevailing in 29 of them. Marshall argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the McGhee family in McGhee v. Sipes, the companion case to Shelley v. Kraemer. The landmark decision ruled that state enforcement of racially restrictive covenants violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The decision in Shelley v. Kraemer initiated the formal undoing of generations of residential segregation, and evidenced a tangible shift in race relations in the country. Furthermore, it laid the groundwork for a legal strategy toward ending segregation that both activists and courts came to employ in the decades following the Second World War.

Beyond Shelley, Thurgood Marshall made some of the most meaningful contributions to our nation’s jurisprudence on civil rights law as both an attorney—arguing the historic Brown v. Board of Education case—and U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

William Warley

Buchanan v. Warley

 

William Warley was a civil rights activist and editor of the Louisville News, which he founded in 1913, using the paper to speak out against segregated street cars and school inequality. In 1917, Warley was also president of the NAACP Louisville, KY Chapter. In 1915, he entered into a contract to purchase property in a predominantly white area of Louisville from Charles H. Buchanan. When a Louisville ordinance blocked the sale to Warley, Buchanan sued arguing the ordinance enforcing state-sponsored racial segregation was unconstitutional. In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court decided that racial zoning laws were a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment--affirming that the state could not deprive any person of their property or limit their ability to  dispose of their property without due process of law. The decision in Buchanan v. Warley was considered a crucial fist step toward ending racial discrimination in housing in the U.S.