City of Lawrence Fair Housing Ordinance 50th Anniversary Oral History Project
On July 18, 1967, Lawrence mayor Richard Raney signed into law Ordinance 3749, which provided fair housing protections to the citizens of Lawrence and predated the passage of the federal fair housing ordinance by almost a year. The purpose of this oral history project, sponsored by the City of Lawrence to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ordinance, is to document and capture the memories, roles and issues surrounding the passage of Ordinance 3749.
In May 1961 the Lawrence City Commission established an interracial Lawrence Human Relations Commission (LHRC) to “further amicable [race] relations” and “investigate…practices of discrimination” within the city. Separately, in 1964 various community organizations, including the NAACP and church groups, formed the Lawrence Fair Housing Coordinating Committee (LFHCC). Working together, the LHRC and the LFHCC submitted a proposed fair housing ordinance to the Lawrence City Commission in April 1967 seeking to address discriminatory practices in the sale and rental of homes in the city that effectively perpetuated patterns of racial segregation. Although strongly opposed by the Lawrence Real Estate Board representing local agents, the Fair Housing Ordinance passed the city commission on July 18, 1967. As its stated purpose the ordinance aimed “to provide for the general welfare of the citizens of Lawrence by declaring discriminatory practices in the rental, leasing, sale, financing or showing and advertising of dwelling units, commercial units or real property to be against public policy, and to provide for enforcement thereof.”
Approval of Lawrence’s Fair Housing Ordinance predated the signing of the Federal Fair Housing Act by nine months and preceded passage of the Kansas Fair Housing Act by nearly three years. This landmark piece of civic legislation, promoted by a diverse group of concerned residents of a university town that viewed itself as an example of American values to outsiders, including foreign students, and aspired to embody the ideals of its Free-State legacy, addressed discriminatory practices in housing, providing means for victims to seek redress and imposing penalties on violators. The origins, development and importance of this citizen-inspired movement warrants examination and interpretation as the city approaches the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Ordinance of 1967.
Interviews for this project were conducted by Thomas Arnold in the summer and fall of 2016.