The early years of Met Council on Housing coincided with those of the civil rights movement. In addition to opposing racial discrimination in housing, Met Council on Housing worked in solidarity with organizations such as the Congress of Racial Equality, the Black Panthers and the Young Lords to support racial and economic justice in New York City.
1963 March on Washington
Organized by prominent civil rights activists Bayard Rustin and Philip A. Randolph, the August 28th 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a landmark event in the early civil rights movement, and the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech. Met Council on Housing sent a large delegation of tenants to the march, filling two railway cars.
Several chapters of the New York Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) were formally affiliated with Met Council on Housing. In collaboration with the New York City Commission for Human Rights, CORE was engaged in negotiations with Trailways buses, which operated out of New York City terminals and refused to promote or hire African-American or Latino employees above entry-level positions. In 1964 Met Council on Housing endorsed and publicized a successful boycott of Trailways buses after the company failed to comply with a negotiated agreement.
Black Panthers and Young Lords
Met Council on Housing organized the 1970 People’s Court Housing Crimes Trial in conjunction with the Black Panthers and the Young Lords. Discussed in more detail in the “Grassroots Organizing” section of this exhibition, the Housing Crimes Trial saw eight hours of testimony from tenants and city administrators on housing conditions in New York City. Met Council on Housing received criticism from members who disagreed with the decision to organize with the radical Black Panthers. Met Council on Housing chairwoman Jane Benedict defended their decision in individual letters to members, stating that “we considered cooperation with these groups of great importance, in that they represent the ghetto poor, whose housing is indisputably the worst in the city.”