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Study Michigan's Fair Housing Act of 1968 - Lesson Plan
The Detroit riot of 1967 shocked Michigan. In response, the state legislature adopted new civil rights laws which dealt with civil liberties, housing and the right to vote. Michigan passed its Fair Housing Act of 1968 which made it illegal to refuse to rent or sell a home to an individual because of that person's race.
At the national level, the Civil Rights Bill of 1968, including Title VIII (Fair Housing Act), nondiscriminatory housing measures, was signed into law (amended, 1988). To further prevent incidents of redlining, Congress passed the Federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act in 1975.
Sometimes laws are written and then repealed to be incorporated under larger, more comprehensive laws. Such was the case with Michigan's Fair Housing Act of 1968. It became part of the Elliott Larson Law of 1976. The new law dealt not only with housing, but also with voting and civil rights. Michigan followed the lead of the federal government by dealing with issues such as "redlining" (see vocabulary below) and other discriminatory practices denying people access to housing.
In this activity, students study Michigan's Fair Housing Act of 1968. (Younger students may study a small section of the act.) By reading, studying and discussing the law, students will gain insight into law and society.
- Students will analyze part or all of a Michigan law.
- Students will compare and contrast what purchasing a home was like for minorities before and after Michigan's Fair Housing Act was passed.
- Students will explain how the law protects individual rights and serves the common good.
Michigan Social Studies Curriculum Content Standards
This lesson presents an opportunity to address, in part, these standards:
- 3.1 PURPOSES OF GOVERNMENT: Students will identify the purposes of national, state, and local governments in the United States, describe how citizens organize governments to accomplish their purposes, and assess their effectiveness.
- 3.2 IDEALS OF AMERICAN DEMOCRACY: Students will explain the meaning and origin of the ideas, including core democratic values, expressed in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other foundational documents of the United States.
- 3.3 DEMOCRACY IN ACTION: Students will describe the political and legal processes created to make decisions, seek consensus, and resolve conflicts in a free society.
Copies of Michigan's Fair Housing Act of 1968.
- With older students, study Michigan's Fair Housing Law and the bill analysis. With younger students, study a small section of the law such as Chapter 2, Unfair Housing Practices.
- Discuss the Fair Housing Act or selected chapter(s) with your students. Here are some suggested discussion questions:
- Chapter 1
- Why did P.A. 122 of 1968 receive the short title, "Fair Housing Act of 1968?"
- Write the terms from Chapter 1 and those given in the vocabulary list on the chalkboard. Discuss the terms and their definitions.
- If one or more parts of this law were found invalid, how would the finding affect the other parts of the law?
- Chapter 2
- What may owners and real estate brokers or salespersons not do under this law?
- What may banks, savings and loans, or mortgage companies not do under this law?
- What is "blockbusting?" Why do you think the authors of the law wanted to stop it?
- Chapter 3
- Do you agree with the four incidents excluded from this law? Why or why not?
- Chapter 4
- What information must be provided when someone files a complaint with the Civil Rights Commission under this law?
- To which level of courts did the Civil Rights Commission take the complaints?
- Upon whom did the burden of proof fall?
- What was the maximum amount of damages the complainant could receive if the case was settled in his/her favor?
- What was the maximum fine the court could assess the respondent if the case was decided in the complainant's favor?
- If the complainant lost the case, who paid the court costs and respondent's attorney fees?
- Chapter 5
- Real estate brokers must be licensed in the state of Michigan. How might being found guilty of an unfair housing practice under this law affect a broker's license?
- Chapter 6
- Could a city or village write its own laws regarding unfair housing practices?
- Could a person file a complaint with both a local commission and with the state Civil Rights Commission? Under what conditions?
- Chapter 7
- Why might a person file a civil action in the case of an unfair housing practice rather than go to a local or state commission?
- Optional: Ask a speaker from your community who is familiar with civil rights issues to speak to your students.
- Optional: Have students interview their parents or other older people in the community who lived during the 1960s about civil rights.
Questions for Discussion or Research
- What must it be like not to be able to rent or buy a home because of your race? Why do you think it was unfair?
- What would you do if you had to face this situation?
- How did the practice of discrimination get named "redlining?"
- What kind of a neighborhood do you live in? What kind of neighborhoods do your friends live in? Ask your parents what kind of neighborhoods they grew up in? How are they similar or different from yours?
At the Museum
- Watch the video "Democracy in Action" in "A Time to Change" in the 1960s gallery.
- Look at the home in the 1950s gallery. Discuss whether all people had access to homes like this. How did this impact the 1960s?
- Act: A decision of a legislature.
- Bill: A draft of a law proposed to a lawmaking body.
- Blockbusting: The practice of inducing homeowners in a particular neighborhood to sell their homes quickly, often at a loss, by creating the fear that actual or prospective purchases by members of a minority group will bring a loss of value.
- Civil Liberties: Liberties guaranteed to all individuals by law, custom, judicial interpretation; rights, as of speaking or acting as one likes, without governmental interference or restraint except as determined necessary for the public welfare.
- CIVIL vs. CRIMINAL:
- Civil: Of a citizen or citizens; relating to the private rights of individuals and to legal actions involving these: distinguished from criminal.
- Criminal: Having the nature of a crime; dealing with law cases related to crime.
- Civil Rights: Those rights guaranteed to the individual by the 13th, 14th, 15th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States and by other acts of Congress; especially, the right to vote, exemption from involuntary servitude, and equal treatment of all people with respect to the enjoyment of life, liberty and property and to the protection of law.
- Complainant: A person who files a charge or makes the complaint in court; plaintiff.
- Discrimination: The act of discriminating or distinguishing differences; a showing of partiality or prejudice in treatment specifically action or policies directed against the welfare of minority groups.
- Exclusion: an excluding, a refusal to admit or include.
- Lis Pendens: A pending suit; involves the legal doctrine that a court acquires jurisdiction over property involved in a suit.
- Redlining: Those lending practices that constitute arbitrary denials of financing based upon geographic location, racial or ethnic considerations, or any consideration which is not justified on he basis of legitimate, demonstrable, economic criteria. (Michigan Governor's Task Force on Redlining, Dec. 1976) (Some redlining practices included requiring higher down payments than usual, charging higher interest rates than on most mortgages, and refusing to grant a mortgage below certain amounts thus making it impossible to borrow to purchase a home in a neighborhood with lower priced properties.)
- Respondent: The party, who responds to a petition as in equity or appellate proceedings; the defendant in such proceedings.
Contact the Michigan Historical Museum.