Raleigh Housing and the Political Process

Downtown Raleigh, 1970s

Segregated space in downtown Raleigh.

Much like Western Raleigh, Downtown Raleigh was riddled with housing disputes. Thousands of black residents found themselves in blighted urban areas with few housing options. Founded in 1965, it was the Raleigh Community Relations Committee's responsibility to address neighborhood concerns and foster discussion about spatial discrimination.

By 1967, the situation was dire. The RCRC failed to pass any major city initiatives in years, and black citizens and civic leaders demanded action. On June 1, 1967, Councilman John Winters warned of an increasing possibility of violence in Southeastern Raleigh, insisting that, "Some families have doubled up because of a housing shortage."[1] In October, Civic leader W.H. Peace implored white Raleighites to look beyond their front yard: "The Southside is truly a blighted area, and if you took a tour into some of these homes you would not rest easy tonight...if you would only check and see how that person who works for you is living, your attitude might change."[2] Peace understood that the space one occupies is, sometimes unfairly, associated with the individual who occupies it. By playing upon space's inherent relationality, Peace hoped to invoke action and change.

However, for many, gradual change was not good enough. UNC-Chapel Hill Professor, Howard Fuller, recognized the agitation in Raleigh's black community. At a gathering at Fairmont Methodist Church, Fuller discussed the Black Power Movement and the right of blacks to reclaim the city. Fuller equated the black struggle for equal housing within common notions of the American Dream. He exclaimed, "We don't have a democratic government in North Carolina; this state's black people have taxation without representation. I am trying to make black people a part of the government!"[3] Professor Fuller identified housing restrictions as control over a citizen's right to move within their own country. Without anti-discriminatory legislation, black Raleighites could never realize real citizenship.