1962 November 20

“Stroke of the Pen:” JFK Finally Issues Ban on Housing Discrimination


President John F. Kennedy finally signed Executive Order 11063, Equal Opportunity in Housing, which banned racial discrimination in federally-assisted housing in certain limited circumstances. He had promised to sign the order during the 1960 election campaign, saying he could do it with a “stroke of the pen,” but he then angered civil rights activists by refusing to sign it for over a year and a half.

The 1968 Fair Housing Act, passed on April 11, 1968, finally addressed the problem of race discrimination in housing. The Supreme Court affirmed and strengthened the 1968 Fair Housing Act in a crucial decision on June 25, 2015.

President Kennedy’s response to the civil rights movement was generally weak. He did not, for example, support the Freedom Rides that began on May 4, 1961. He transformed his image on civil rights, on June 11, 1963, when he gave a famous nationally televised speech calling for a federal civil rights bill. Nonetheless, he tried to talk civil rights leaders out of what became the famous March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and responding to pressure from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, his brother as Attorney General authorized wiretaps on Martin Luther King on October 10, 1963.

Read Kennedy’s Executive Order: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/print.php?pid=59002

Learn about housing discrimination at the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:

Learn more about President Kennedy and civil rights: Nick Bryant, The Bystander: John F. Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality (2006)

Learn more: John Yinger, Closed Doors, Opportunities Lost: The Continuing Costs of Housing Discrimination (1995)

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