Fight for equal housing –Jarvis Lu

The Fight for Equal Housing in San Diego

For African Americans who value equality, having equal access to different resources is certainly their top priority. Having equal access to housing is no different. This determination for equality led to the passage of the Rumford or Fair housing act in 1963(Bryon,2019). It is an act that officially made discrimination in housing illegal. This made housing easier for African Americans and communities no longer remained exclusive to white Americans. However, whites in those communities were not pleased with the influx of African Americans and pushed for segregation. Thus, Proposition 14 was born. Proposition 14 was passed in 1964, and it nullified the Rumford act. This decision was later declared unconstitutional by the supreme court in 1966 by the case of Reitman v Mulkey. I believe this is significant not only because it proves that segregation is unconstitutional on a federal level, but also it is a huge step towards actual equality. In this essay, I shall examine the African American struggle for equal housing in San Diego and its significance as it changed the housing selection process for later generations.

During the 1900s, San Diego was less segregated than most eastern states, but one of the most segregated cities in California. And after WWII, which ended in 1945, the black soldiers who risked their lives to protect the country further inspired an attitude against the segregated communities(Ruffins,2019). Under immense pressure from the activist’s campaigns. The Republican legislators passed the bill on September 20, 1963. Which made any action preventing someone from receiving fair housing opportunities based on their solely on their race, color of their skin, sex or religion illegal. This was a huge victory for the fight of equality as all races have the same access to the same resources in terms of housing. Before the bill was passed, Black and white citizens lived in separate communities with very different infrastructures. Government facilitated segregation forced African Americans to lower-income communities with considerably lower standards of living. Even if the African American families have the economic power to afford a better living condition, they were denied as to those communities with better infrastructure are usually exclusive to whites. With the passage of the Fair housing act, there was a significant influx of African Americans into previously all-white communities(Bryon,2019). Desegregation in communities was achieved.

Previous tenants didn’t welcome the inrush of African Americans. Some communities saw as African Americans moved in, the previous white tenants started moving out(Tylor,2018). To combat this, the California Real Estate Association started a campaign promoting the rights of the property owners. They exploited the tension between the races and twisted the understanding of rights to further gain support for their movement. They used the idea that the previous white owners paid to be in the exclusively white communities, with the passage of the new bill, the white owners are getting shorthand by not receiving what they paid for. Going further along the lines of keeping their rights, they stated that it is within the lawful rights of the property owner to rent his or her property to whomever he or she see fits. Since the person who owns the property has a right to it, it is within their freedom to not rent to African Americans if they don’t desire it. This was very effective as it not only engages the racial tension between the groups but also it portrays it as a fight for their free will. Because of this, Proposition 14 was created with the intention of repelling the Rumford act(El Sereno Star,1964). During the referendum, the state level method of giving voters a chance to approve or disapprove proposed legislation directly, proposition 14 saw a 2 to 1 vote in favor of repelling the Rumford act. This goes to show that although at federal level desegregation is considered the norm, for the people who are directly affected by this, it is still hard to accept as their new standard. The opposition towards segregated communities was so strong, that Proposition 14 was passed in 1964, merely a year after the first passage of the Rumford act(Ruffin,2018).

With the passage of Proposition 14, African Americans were again faced with the constraints of policy supported segregation. On the surface, Proposition 14 seemed like protection for the property owners. It protected their rights to lend property to people they saw fit. However, it encouraged discrimination among communities and further acted as legal support for segregation. The separation in racial groups meant that some region would be exclusively white or exclusively Black. For the region that is mostly inhabited by African Americans, it is likely to see significantly less investment in its public infrastructure such as schools. So having the racial groups being separated not only limits the live standards of hard-working African Americans but also limits the amount of education further African American generation could receive. With the defeat of fair housing in the state of California, this case was taken to the supreme court in the case of Reitman v. Mulkey(Casebriefs,2019). For this case, Reitman was a white property owner who was not pleased with lending his property to African Americans. The Mulkey couple then brought this issue to the supreme court where the final decision supported desegregation within the housing administration. This is very significant not only does it give African American more rights in selecting housing, but made investment to white only areas hard as African Americans can now move to any communities that they could afford. Regions are no longer exclusive to one race so investment in infrastructure are more evenly distributed. This opened up other public infrastructures such as better schools, better shops, even better roads.

   African Americans fought hard for equal housing rights through means such as protest, march, organizations, and legal support. They earned the housing rights they deserve as citizens and shared it with other minorities who are suffering from the same inequality. This not only improved the living conditions of the minorities but opened up better resources such as better education to them as well. The better resources are the real step in achieving equality as it empowers the people to fight for their right.


Annotated Bibliography

Primary sources:

  • Rumford, William Bryon. “The Fair Housing Act.” Online Archive of California. Accessed April 9, 2019.;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&
    • William Bryon Rumford, an assemblyman who acted as the main sponsor of the rumford act. This text is a oral transcription of the history of the Rumford act through the perspective of the main sponsor of the act. I believe this a great source not only because it is a firsthand record of the act, but also a great source for learning more about the period that the person is living in and also how he reacted to opposition such as proposition 14. A proposition designed to repel fair housing for African Americans. I also believe it is important to understand the perspective of the main sponsors of the act to better understand the purpose and deeper meaning behind the act. And who better to study than the person who the act was named after.
  • “Reitman v. Mulkey.” Casebriefs Reitman v Mulkey Comments. Accessed April 9, 2019.
    • This was a supreme court ruling following the passing of proposition 14. Proposition 14 allowed for discriminated based on race when housing and overruled the Rumford act. The became the main conflict between the landlord Reitman and the African American Mulkey couple. Reitman didn’t want to allow African Americans to live in his neighborhood and this dispute was settled by the supreme court. The Supreme court ruled that it would be against the equal protection clause under amendment 14 and ruled victory for Mulkey. This is certainly very important for my essay as it is the ruling by the supreme court that invalidated the existence of discrimination in housing base on race. This article is a case briefing with detailed information about the case. I will certainly be able to find lots of useful information regarding the act.
  • “The Great Debate.” El Sereno Star(Los Angeles), September 17, 1964. Accessed April 9, 2019.——-en–20–1–txt-txIN——–1.
    • This article was an issue of El Sereno Star newspaper in LA and it was focused upon discussing the issue of the Rumford act, explain the origin of proposition 14, and the conflict between the two. During the time the newspaper was published. There were a lot of tension going on between the racial groups as the Rumford act was passed only a year ago. So there was a heated debate between the the acts. This article focused upon the debate and gave the reader a lot of information regarding both acts. I believe I can use this article to gain better insight into the political climate and also the reaction of the mass to the acts.I believe it is important in history to try and view a certain subject through the lens of the people directly affected by it at the time. This news article serves as both a detailed explanation of the acts and also a very good reflection of the value held by people at that time.


Secondary sources:

  • Herbert G. Ruffin. “The California Fair Housing Act [The Rumford Act] (1963-1968) • BlackPast.” January 29, 2019. Accessed April 8, 2019.
    • This source provides a very good background upon the details of the fair housing or Rumford act. It also provides some information regarding the political climate, and how the community reacted to this. I believe this essay was written with the purpose of educating people on the history of the Rumford act so it does have reliable sources and plenty of information. One of the biggest opposition to the fair housing act was proposition 14, which was a proposition aimed at repelling the rumford act. This origin and end of the proposition 14 is also mentioned within this article as well. I plan to use the information gather here to lay the foundation for my essay.  I believe this a source as it provided background information on a lot events surrounding this issue.
  • Reny, Tylor T. Protecting the Right to Discriminate. Master’s thesis, Cambridge, 2018. American Political Science Review.

    • This article is a article by Cambridge in which it investigated the effects of growing black population in previous all white communities and how it impacts both racial groups. Before the Rumford act, most communities was exclusively white, however, with the legalization of fair housing. More exclusive area became shared with the racial groups. This article discusses the effect the migration had on the white communities. They were not particularly welcoming to the black folks coming in and was eager to vote for proposition 14, which forced them out. The paper discussed that in areas with the most rapid growth of Black population saw the strongest push for proposition 14. I believe this ia great article to dive into as it gives me statistics on this issue, and also gives me a value perspective from the white communities

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