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 Black people in Illinois, and in the country at large, were fighting to have their civil rights upheld.
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 with a mission to promote discrimination-free housing in Skokie. The “Skokie Plan,” a public awareness campaign begun in 1965, was the SHRC’s attempt to avoid the need to codify fair housing law in Skokie. The promotional effort was deemed successful in educating citizens about fair housing, but ultimately, a legal remedy was necessary to guard against 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.
Prior to this, in 1963 Chicago became the first city in Illinois to pass a fair housing ordinance during a time when 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 across the nation beginning in January of 1970. Though the passage of a federal law was a significant stride forward for equitable housing, the necessity to provide equitable and fair housing persists and now encompasses a wide range of issues including age, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and sexuality. These records from the SHRC 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 might go in the future.
Scope and Content of this digital collection:
Skokie’s collection contains correspondence, reports, minutes, promotional materials, pamphlets, statements, and other pertinent documents created by the Skokie Human Relations Commission (SHRC) 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 Heritage Museum.
Our online exhibit walks you through selected documents 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.