CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed April as Fair Housing Month in Illinois, in an effort to highlight the state’s continuous efforts to combat discrimination in housing and to mark the 40th anniversary of the passage of the federal Fair Housing Act. Blagojevich officials also commemorated the hundred-year anniversary of the Springfield Race Riots of 1908.
Deputy Governor Louanner Peters presented Governor Blagojevich’s proclamation and discussed the racial tension surrounding the riots, which served as a rallying cause in founding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The event in the Capitol Rotunda also featured a day-long exhibit entitled “Summer of Hate: Modern Perspective of the Springfield Race Riot of 1908,” which included fourteen banners created by the 2007 Summer Scholars of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
"The children have done an outstanding job creatively expressing the issues of racial tolerance using the Springfield Race Riots of 1908 as a reference. Through their eyes, we relive the painful experience of racial violence that undermined law and order, and disrupted the lives of many. The impact of prejudice serves as a reminder that we must not repeat the mistakes of nearly a century ago and that we should continue to work on accepting our differences. Under the leadership of Gov. Blagojevich, we have come a long way in fighting discrimination and racism in Illinois, and there is still a lot of work to do,” said Dep. Gov. Peters.
Illinois Department of Human Rights Director Rocco Claps presented information on fair housing protections and the Department’s outreach efforts to create awareness of fair housing laws that protect individuals who feel they have faced discrimination when buying, selling or renting homes, and to promote integrated communities.
“1908 marks a time of great tragedy in the history of Springfield, Illinois, as the city’s race riots drove out hundreds of African-Americans from their homes. In April 1968, just 60 years after the Springfield riots and sadly, the same year the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, the federal Fair Housing Act was passed to give individuals the right to choose where to live, without discrimination. Now, 40 years later, everyone should know that fair housing isn’t a choice, it’s the law,” said IDHR Director Rocco Claps. “Also, we are proud to display the work of talented and socially-aware children that capture the racial injustice of that time,” he added.
Dep. Gov. Peters and Dir. Claps were joined by Kenneth Page, President of the Springfield Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), State Rep. Art Turner, Sandy Robinson, Director of the Office of Community Relations, City of Springfield, Dr. Erin Bishop, Director of Educational Programming and Kathryn Harris, Director of Library Services for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Gospel vocalist and pianist Paula Irby presented a musical performance.
The Springfield Race Riots broke out in 1908 when, within hours of a reported rape on a white woman by a black man, hundreds took to the street in fierce mob action against African-Americans. Though the woman eventually confessed to lying about the incident, the African-American caretaker was jailed and awaited trial by an all-white jury. The violence held sway in the city for several days and resulted in the deaths of two black businessmen and four white men. Businesses owned by African-Americans and Jews were destroyed, houses were burned and hundreds were injured before 4000 state militiamen intervened.
“Illinois is the home of President Abraham Lincoln, the most celebrated president in the world, a place where Black citizens would certainly be safe to live and prosper. Imagine the shock waves throughout this country one hundred years ago when rioting against Black citizens broke out in Springfield. Yet out of this tragic event was born one of the greatest organizations in America. It is my hope that today’s and other such events will translate into positive action that will last one hundred years,” said Kenneth Page, President, Springfield Chapter, NAACP.
When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 8, 1968, riots and upheaval following the assassination prompted Congress to pass a bill on April 11, 1968. President Johnson signed the federal fair housing act on April 22, 1968, proclaiming that it was illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, and religion, in the buying, renting, or selling of homes. The law was amended in 1972 to add protection based on sex (gender), and in 1988, the law was substantially amended, adding protection for families with children and people with disabilities, and significantly strengthening enforcement by providing a mechanism for investigation of complaints.
Many home buyers or renters often do not realize they are being discriminated against and lose the opportunity of living in the home, apartment or neighborhood of their choice. The Department of Human Rights remains committed to helping any individual who feels they are a victim of discrimination through it enforcement efforts and continues to create awareness across the state. If you feel you have been discriminated against in a housing transaction, please contact IDHR at: or log on to http://www.state.il.us/dhr
Governor Blagojevich’s proclamation reads:
WHEREAS, April 11, 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the U.S. Fair Housing Act, which enunciated a national policy of fair housing and today bars discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, gender, familial status or disability; and
WHEREAS, this year also marks the 29th anniversary of the passage of the Illinois Human Rights Act, which also bars discrimination in housing based on age, citizenship, ethnicity, gender, race, disability and religion. The Act was expanded in 2005 to include sexual orientation; and
WHEREAS, acts of housing discrimination and barriers to equal housing opportunity are repugnant to a common sense of decency and fairness; and
WHEREAS, decent, safe and affordable housing is part of the American dream and a goal of all Illinois residents; and
WHEREAS, economic stability, community health and human relations in all communities of the State of Illinois are improved by diversity and integration; and
WHEREAS, stable, integrated and balanced residential patterns are threatened by discriminatory acts and unlawful housing practices that result in segregation of residents and opportunities in Illinois communities; and
WHEREAS, the talents of grassroots and non-profit organizations, housing service providers, financial institutions, elected officials, state agencies and others must be combined to promote and preserve integration, fair housing and equal opportunity:
THEREFORE, I, Rod R. Blagojevich, Governor of the State of Illinois, do hereby proclaim April 2008 as FAIR HOUSING MONTH in Illinois in commemoration of the signing of the U.S. Fair Housing Act and the Illinois Human Rights Act, as well as to promote integration and equal housing opportunities for everyone and urge all Illinois residents to embrace diversity, recognize the importance of equal opportunity in housing, and to promote appropriate activities by private and public entities intended to provide or advocate for integration and equal housing opportunities for all residents and prospective residents of the State of Illinois.
- 30 -