Sara Pratt


I’m going to talk a little bit about why it is that the Fair Housing Act at fifty still is relevant. I mean, after all, should it really be relevant?

How is it that a law that languished in Congress for years and then was abruptly passed when our country was in deep anger, grief, and disbelief at the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King is still relevant? There’s virtually no legislative history around the passage of the law. It was going nowhere in Congress until Dr. King was assassinated. There was no time to build up to it in the national psyche in some ways. Although Congress had a bill pending for fair housing for several years, no one was talking about it—except for demonstrators who were calling for passage of a federal fair housing law. A fair housing law was not passed as part of a package of other civil rights law in 1964. It wasn’t passed in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed; it had to wait until 1968, in a huge national time of tragedy and despair for it to be enacted. But there was no legislative roll-out for it and no public discourse about it in advance. It’s not like the government was ready to enforce the Fair Housing Act. Many of us believe that the Fair Housing Act was so hard to get passed because there was stronger opposition to having people of color living near white people than there was to employment discrimination or voting rights.