Skokie History Digital Collections

Fair Housing in Skokie, 1961-1971 Digital Archive


Fair Housing in Skokie, 1961-1971 Digital Archive


This digital collection consists primarily of documents from Skokie’s Human Relations Commission (SHRC) and its efforts in the 1960s to ensure open, non-discriminatory housing policies in Skokie during a time in which the state of Illinois and the country as a whole were grappling with the civil rights of African Americans.

Historical Background:
Beginning in the summer of 1965, the North Shore Summer Project (NSSP) assessed the willingness of homeowners in ten suburban Chicago “North Shore” communities to rent or sell their properties to any potential buyer, regardless of race or ethnicity, highlighting the need for progressive action in Skokie to ensure that real estate brokers were not discriminating against potential home-buyers on the basis of race.

The Skokie Human Relations Commission (SHRC) was established in 1961 to ensure discrimination-free housing first without passing an actual fair housing law, but ultimately determined that though they were successful in educating citizens about fair housing, a fair housing ordinance was necessary ensure nondiscriminatory real estate practices. The Skokie Fair Housing Ordinance was passed by the SHRC on October 1st, 1967, and then by the Skokie Board of Trustees on October 9th, 1967. It was enacted into law on January 1st, 1968.

The rapid sprawl of new suburbs made housing integration a pressing issue in the United States, especially as upper- and middle-class white families flocked to homogenously populated suburbs, fearing ghettoization and the depreciation of housing values in integrated, urban areas. This “white flight” had both moral and economic implications: after all, if African American families could not find affordable and open housing near their workplaces, how could they work?

In 1963 Chicago became the first city in Illinois to pass a fair housing ordinance during a time that only 3 cities and 12 states had fair housing laws. Although fair housing laws were proposed in the Illinois legislature over a period of several years, none were ever passed. This lack of a statewide ordinance made the efforts of small, local communities like Skokie all the more important.

The federal government passed the Fair Housing Act in April of 1968, which made discriminatory housing practices illegal on a nationwide level beginning in January of 1970. Two months later, the Supreme Court made a decision to uphold the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which declares that any American citizen has the right to purchase and hold property. Though the passage of a federal law was a significant stride forward for equitable housing, the topic of fair housing still remains relevant today and now encompasses a wide range of issues: race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, age, etc. These records from the Skokie Human Relations Commission and the Skokie Fair Housing Ordinance can be used to gain a better understanding of where the fight for fair housing began and where it will go in the future.

Scope and Content of digital collection:
Skokie’s collection contains correspondence, reports, minutes, promotional materials, statements, and other pertinent documents created by the Skokie Human Relations Commission during the process of drafting and enacting the Skokie Fair Housing Ordinance of 1967. The records span the approximate years of 1961-1971. Many are the personal papers of Donald P. Perille, late co-Chairman of the SHRC and member of the Skokie Board of Trustees, who generously donated his papers for this project, while other documents were donated from the Village to the Skokie Historical Society. The original documents now belong to the Skokie Historical Society.

Online Exhibit:
Visit our digital exhibit that walks you through selected items from this digital collection and tells the story of the establishment of the Skokie Human Relations Commission and its successful effort to enact a fair housing ordinance in Skokie.


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