Civil Rights Battles

109 E. Olive St., Bloomington

Location notes: If you look down the street to the east you will see a mural on the corner of a retaining wall. It is titled “Let Our Light Shine” and was a project of Not in our Town/Not in our Schools. The student artists had a common message they wanted to portray: We should all accept one another for who we are, get along, and work together to make the world a better place.

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)

Use the arrows to view historical photos relevant to this social justice stop.

Additional information can be found at the following links: