BlackHistoryMonth2020

 

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

 

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.

Beverly Lorraine Greene

Beverly Loraine Greene

 

Beverly Loraine Greene was an American architect. She was believed to have been the first African-American female licensed as an architect in the United States. She received her license to practice architecture in 1942 in the state of Illinois. Her first job was with the Chicago Housing Authority where she worked for the first architectural office led by an African American in downtown Chicago.  Despite her credentials, she found it difficult to surmount race barriers to find work in the city. She and other black architects were routinely ignored by the mainstream Chicago press.  In 1945, Greene left Chicago to move to New York City after being hired by Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to help design the Stuyvesant Housing project located in Brooklyn, NY. After only a few days, she quit the project to accept a scholarship for the master's degree program at Columbia University.  She obtained the degree in architecture in 1945 and took a job with the firm of Isadore Rosefield.

Hilyard Robinson

Hilyard Robinson

 

Hilyard Robinson (1899 – 1986) - Robinson’s greatest achievements were for the greater good, whether that meant public housing projects—such as the celebrated Langston Terrace Dwellings in D.C. (airy, open spaces for the working class), educational facilities at Howard University (where he taught for decades), or other government projects, like an airbase for the famed Tuskegee Airmen, the first defense contract given to an African American.

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.