Alabama Created Millions of Potential Homebuyers
From the Tuskegee Airmen to the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Alabama has long been a stage for civil rights leaders to make advances toward a more equal society. Without those efforts, it’s safe to say that the Fair Housing Act may never have been passed, leaving millions of potential homebuyers without access to real estate and all of the financial benefits that come with it.
Alabama: The Epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement
While the Civil Rights Movement was a nationwide initiative, some of its most pivotal and well-known moments took place in Alabama. For instance:
December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.
June 11, 1963: then-Governor George C. Wallace stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama to prevent two Black students from registering for classes. President John F. Kennedy had to send the National Guard to ensure their safety.
September 15, 1963: a bomb at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a historically Black church, killed four young girls and injured several others, grabbing the attention of the nation.
March of 1965: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others completed the Selma to Montgomery march — perhaps one of the most influential actions in recent history.
“The tragedies and triumphs that took place in Alabama during the 1950s and 1960s awakened an entire nation to the reality of racial injustice and hatred that affected African-Americans all over the country,” reads CivilRightsTrail.com.
A few years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, better known as The Fair Housing Act, prohibiting discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, and sex.
Without the actions and perseverance of those fighting for equality in Alabama, it’s safe to say this legislation might never have moved through Congress and crossed the desk of the President.
Real Estate in the ‘60s & Why Fair Housing Remains Crucial
As in other parts of the American South, a perverse prevalence of racist attitudes and rampant discrimination practices plagued the Alabama real estate industry. Redlining, racial steering, and plain denial to underwrite or issue loans to Black Alabamans played a major part in preventing residents from achieving property ownership and accumulating the multi-generational financial benefits real estate can provide, including:
- Appreciating property values
- Building equity
- Home equity loans (oftentimes used by families to pay for higher education or start a business)
- Access to education
- Access to economic opportunities
- Rental income
Even the National Association of REALTORS® Code of Ethics, up until 1954, read:
“A REALTOR® should never be instrumental in introducing into a neighborhood a character of property or occupancy, members of any race or nationality, or any individuals whose presence will clearly be detrimental to property values in that neighborhood.”
In many ways, these practices still affect many communities across the country, including those in Alabama. After all, 1968 is still less than two mortgages ago, and attitudes didn’t change overnight.
“African American families that were prohibited from buying homes in the suburbs in the 1940s and ‘50s, and even into the 1960s, by the Federal Housing Administration gained none of the equity appreciation that Whites gained,” Richard Rothstein, a distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute and a Senior Fellow (emeritus) at the Thurgood Marshall Institute of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said in his film Segregated by Design.
How You Can Help as a Real Estate Professional
While the economic consequences of this dark time in American history still resonate throughout the state, you have the opportunity to begin making a difference as a real estate professional. Not only should you defend and uphold Fair Housing at all costs, but be sure to educate your clients on the role access to housing has in creating a more just and equitable society. If fair housing is something that you feel passionately about, you can volunteer or donate to the National Fair Housing Alliance in Alabama.
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