Seattle City Council approves open housing ordinance on April 19, 1968.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 4/02/2001
  • Essay 1384
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On April 19, 1968, the Seattle City Council unanimously approves a strong open housing ordinance with an emergency clause to take immediate effect. Although the council is deeply divided on the issue of open housing, unrest in more than 100 U.S. cities following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) make the members act together to maintain racial peace.

Seattle voters resoundingly defeated an open housing ordinance in March 1964. After that, groups and individuals undertook to integrate Seattle neighborhoods voluntarily. One group, the Voluntary Listing Service, "directly negotiated fifty-two sales [of homes to minorities] with a dollar volume over $1,000,000" by 1965. Homeowners in Leschi invited African Americans to integrate their neighborhood.

In the summer of 1967, Governor Dan Evans (b. 1925) announced his support of open housing. Voluntary open housing groups organized in Seattle suburbs such as Kirkland and Federal Way. African Americans were relatively free to move out of the Central Area, to where they had been confined previously. This allowed affluent families to leave the neighborhood, with the result that property values dropped.


Walt Crowley, Rites of Passage: A Memoir of the Sixties in Seattle (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 255; Quintard Taylor, The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle's Central District from 1870s through the Civil Rights Era (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994), 205-208.

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