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Knocking on the Door

Knocking on the Door: The Federal Government's Attempt to Desegregate the Suburbs

Christopher Bonastia
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Knocking on the Door
    Book Description:

    Knocking on the Dooris the first book-length work to analyze federal involvement in residential segregation from Reconstruction to the present. Providing a particularly detailed analysis of the period 1968 to 1973, the book examines how the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) attempted to forge elementary changes in segregated residential patterns by opening up the suburbs to groups historically excluded for racial or economic reasons. The door did not shut completely on this possibility until President Richard Nixon took the drastic step of freezing all federal housing funds in January 1973.Knocking on the Doorassesses this near-miss in political history, exploring how HUD came surprisingly close to implementing rigorous antidiscrimination policies, and why the agency's efforts were derailed by Nixon.

    Christopher Bonastia shows how the Nixon years were ripe for federal action to foster residential desegregation. The period was marked by new legislative protections against housing discrimination, unprecedented federal involvement in housing construction, and frequent judicial backing for the actions of civil rights agencies.

    By comparing housing desegregation policies to civil rights enforcement in employment and education, Bonastia offers an unrivaled account of why civil rights policies diverge so sharply in their ambition and effectiveness.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2725-1
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Christopher Bonastia
  4. List of Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Government Agencies and Commissions
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. Chapter One Residential Segregation The Forgotten Civil Rights Issue
    (pp. 1-24)

    Every few years, Americans are left with another civil rights milestone to consider. Recently, journalists, scholars, movement participants, and politicians have pondered the impact of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (the year 2003 marked its thirty-fifth anniversary), 1954’sBrown v. Board of EducationSupreme Court decision (fiftieth anniversary) and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (fortieth anniversary). Some of these analyses bask in self-congratulation that we have “come so far,” while others approach something close to despair over how much remains to be accomplished and how many opportunities have been wasted or lost.

    Analysts often treat the array of...

  6. Chapter Two The Divergence of Civil Rights Policies in Housing, Education, and Employment
    (pp. 25-56)

    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 profoundly changed federal governmental treatment of racial discrimination. Ending the Senate debate on cloture, Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL) stressed the inevitability of such a change, quoting Victor Hugo’s aphorism: “Stronger than all the armies is an idea whose time has come.” Dirksen added, “The time has come for equality of opportunity in sharing in government, in education and in employment. It will not be stayed or denied. It is here.”¹ Those opposing the legislation also foresaw profound changes resulting from its passage. Howard W. Smith (D-VA), chair of the House Rules Committee, warned...

  7. Chapter Three The Federal Government and Residential Segregation, 1866–1968
    (pp. 57-90)

    “Who are we kidding when we say—on the one hand—that minority groups ‘prefer to live together’—and then proceed to utilize every device available in the market place to dictate that they do so?” a Federal Housing Administration official wondered in a 1955 speech.¹ Questions of housing and race confronted public and private actors well before the congressional debates of the 1960s. Indeed, one can scarcely understand the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 and HUD’s subsequent development of fair housing policies without grasping the historical sweep of governmental involvement in residential segregation. Deference to private-sector...

  8. Chapter Four Conviction and Controversy HUD Formulates Its Fair Housing Policies
    (pp. 91-120)

    Not long before ugly, violent clashes broke out in New York City between antiwar protestors and construction workers, Mayor John V. Lindsay remarked that the United States “is virtually on the edge of a spiritual—and perhaps physical—breakdown. For the first time, we are not sure there is a future for America.”¹ This uncertainty revolved around continued American involvement in Vietnam, signs of economic trouble, and the perpetual dilemma of race. A number of political analysts interpreted the election of Richard Nixon—as well as the respectable showing of George Wallace—as symptomatic of a voter backlash against rioting,...

  9. Chapter Five Indirect Attack A Housing Freeze Kills Civil Rights Efforts
    (pp. 121-143)

    By the early 1970s, government bureaucracies had gotten a bad name. In his 1968 and 1972 presidential campaigns, George Wallace aimed much of his venom at federal bureaucrats for their ineptitude, their insensitivity, and their interference with matters that were, in his view, none of their business. This was a clever way of attacking programs that ostensibly favored blacks without resorting to explicitly racist appeals; Ronald Reagan later used this tactic with cynical effectiveness by spinning apocryphal tales of “welfare queens” getting rich off of government largesse. Wallace relished tearing into the “intellectual snobs who don’t know the difference between...

  10. Chapter Six The Recent Past, Present, and Future of Residential Desegregation
    (pp. 144-166)

    Over the past three decades, federal efforts encouraging housing desegregation have been scattershot and lacking in ambition. HUD’s continued problems with legitimacy, fueled by numerous scandals in the 1980s, have not helped the chances for a greater federal commitment to desegregation. The agency’s inability to administer its programs effectively was exacerbated by congressional actions during this decade, when it dramatically expanded the number of HUD-administered programs—from fifty-four in 1980 to over two hundred in 1992—while cutting funding from $35 billion in 1980 to $25 billion in 1990. In 1994, a National Academy of Public Administration study commissioned by...

  11. List of Abbreviations for Notes
    (pp. 167-168)
  12. NOTES
    (pp. 169-206)
    (pp. 207-226)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 227-234)