Open Housing Ordinance
Bloomington City Hall has witnessed numerous contentious debates, public hearings, and protests through the years. On July 24, 1964, after four years of effort, Bloomington passed an open housing ordinance. The NAACP had presented a proposal, the City of Bloomington and Town of Normal’s attorneys had come up with a weaker version. Speaking against the weaker version were NAACP leader Merlin Kennedy, ISU professor Carrol Cox, Reverends Jack Newsome and T.A. Clark, and high school math teacher George Warren. Alderman Walt Bittner called for a delay, but council member Frank Hartenstein moved for support of the NAACP version, saying “the time has come when we have to make a decision.” Council member Lawrence Nordine seconded and the vote was unanimously in favor. The Pantagraph reported that Merlin Kennedy had a “look of astonishment,” seeing years of effort culminate successfully. Kennedy unsuccessfully ran for city council that spring on a housing reform platform.
For additional African American Civil Rights stops, visit Lunch Counter, Segregation, Herman Schroder, and African Episcopal Church. (hyperlink to those pages) Or use our map feature to customize your personal Social Justice Walking Tour through downtown Bloomington. (hyperlink to the map)