On April 11, 1967 I landed by ship in Vietnam; a year later on the same day, 50 years ago, the 1968 Fair Housing Bill was signed into law.
Open housing wasn't an issue on the ship or in the barracks I occupied in Vietnam for 18 months, but it had been an issue in Detroit and in the 2,000+ public housing project [Herman Gardens] where I grew up.
And even before then, during WW II, my parents lived in a whites only public housing project hastily constructed at Norwayne, near the Willow Run plant where my mom worked helping to build bombers for the war effort. [Norwayne is now on Historic Register, but I didn't see any reference to the segregated nature of project in the nomination].
I had long remembered the name of what I thought was the first black family that had moved into "the Gardens" in the late 1950's, but I recently discovered that integration had grudgingly begun earlier in some Detroit public housing projects, perhaps before even the May 1954/and May 1955 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decisions. [Website HERE for example says that the members of the singing group the Spinners lived in Herman Gardens in 1954].
I recently ran across a Detroit Housing Commission letter HERE from November of1955 that advised the Police Commissioner that two Negro families with children and headed by veterans were moving into "the Gardens". Reading it made me want to cry, and I don't cry easily. Take a look; the "profiles" of the two families being admitted are on page 2.
During Fair Housing Month and on April 11th I will be thinking about how oblivious I was a as a kid to the segregated nature of the housing I lived in and the families who were denied housing admission to it and other public housing projects simply because of the color of their skin.
Originally created and posted on the Oregon Housing Blog.