April is Fair Housing Month. It commemorates the landmark legislation signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968—just days after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4.
The act prohibited housing discrimination based on race, color, religion and national origin. Discrimination based on sex was added in 1974. A 1988 amendment added important protections for people with disabilities and familial status.
Legacy of MLK
King, who had been on the front lines on the fight for fair housing, believed that open housing was the foundation for a truly integrated and equal society. Throughout the 20th century, racially restrictive covenants, deeds and leases were used to prevent people of color from renting and purchasing homes in white communities. Redlining—the refusal to back mortgages on properties located in or near black communities—was another common practice.