Calendar photo Caption: For decades, Black Americans and allies have been marching to achieve racial equality and fair treatment in the U.S. Pictured: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial, 1963. (Marion S. Trikosko/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
Racial violence in the South forced millions of Black Americans to flee to the North and West. Refugees from terror hoped for new opportunities and economic mobility but instead were met with housing, education, and job discrimination and violence from employers, police, and white workers.
After the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed, civil rights leaders launched protests against dilapidated and segregated housing in the North, calling for open housing laws to eliminate discriminatory policies or practices in the sale and rental of private housing. In August 1966, a white mob in Chicago attacked Black demonstrators striking Dr. Martin Luther Kink Jr. in the head with a rock. He later observed, "Many whites who oppose open housing would deny that they are racists." Black demonstrators faced similar resistance in other communities as well. In 1967, the KKK and neo-Nazi groups verbally and physically assaulted Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council members who marched for 200 consecutive nights for an open housing law.
Congress passed the Fair Housing Act in 1968 after Dr. King was assassinated. The law barred white homeowners from explicitly refusing to rent or sell to Black people. But real estate agents found other ways to discriminate against Black people, excluding listings from Black newspapers and lying to Black home seekers about the availability of homes. Banks made home ownership impossible for many Black people by rejecting mortgage applications from qualified Black buyers. By 1970, more than four out of five Black residents in states outside of the South lived in segregated neighborhoods.