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Black History Month 2022: Seattle Open Housing Campaign

For #BlackHistoryMonth20222, we're highlighting how intentionally discriminatory housing policies segregated Seattle and the lasting impact they have had on Seattle’s communities of color today. We also highlighting the activism and advocacy of the Black community to make housing in Seattle fair and equitable for everyone.

Two days before the vote, supporters of open housing jammed Westlake Mall. Over 1,500 marchers rallied in favor of open housing. Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, 86.5.9654, Museum of History & Industry

The Seattle Open Housing Campaign

The Seattle Open Housing Campaign made fair housing a right in Seattle. Until 1968 it was legal for white landlords and homeowners to discriminate against people of color when renting or selling real estate in Seattle.

Black leaders and community groups organized the Seattle Open Housing Campaign in 1959, to make housing open and fair in Seattle. Their work dovetailed with the broader national Civil Rights movement. The Campaign faced incredible resistance by Seattle's white political, business, media and real estate establishments.

It took a decade to get a fair housing law on the books in Seattle. In April 1968, shortly after the assassination of Dr. MLK Jr., the Seattle City Council passed a fair housing ordinance. The ordinance was largely designed by Sam Smith, the first African American Councilmember and tireless advocate for fair housing. Later, the ordinance was updated to include other protected classes.


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