African-American members of Congress have long recognized that the ability to choose where to live in the United States is an important civil rights issue. Where one lives directly impacts their quality of life. It determines access to schools, jobs, and public services. It influences health and the ability to build wealth. For much of the 20th century, discrimination in housing prevented people of color and other groups from living in neighborhoods with adequate access to many of these resources. As the conscience of the Congress, the Congressional Black Caucus continues the work of earlier African-American members of Congress, to eradicate discriminatory housing policies and practices.
The Fair Housing Act, or Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, is the primary legal structure through which the federal government provides fair housing protections. It prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and, as amended, sex, disability, and familial status. Though recent reports indicate a decline in blatant acts of housing discrimination since the passage of the Fair Housing Act, the housing market is far from open to all the nation's residents. Unfair practices still exist. New, more subtle forms of discrimination, such as predatory lending, also bar many minority home seekers from realizing the dream of owning a home.
This exhibit traces the leadership of African-American legislators in the struggle to pass the original Fair Housing Act in 1968 and the continuing work of the Congressional Black Caucus, through legislative and advocacy efforts, to carry on the fight to ensure everyone equal access to a home of their choice.