Notes & Comments: The Akron Fair Housing Case

By: Thomas Powell, State University of New York, Emeritus

Editor’s Note:
In January of 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case in which the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation, a builder of low-income housing, sued the city of Cuyahoga Falls for delaying construction of a housing project-an action they claimed was motivated in part by issues of discrimination. Although three months later the court overturned a lower court ruling and found in favor of the city,[1.  City of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio et al. v. Buckeye Community Hope Foundation et al. No. 01-1269. A copy of the decision can be found through the FindLaw website at Briefs for the case are at] the case illustrates the continuation of long-standing divisions concerning race and residence in this Northeast Ohio Community.

Nearly forty years before the recent Supreme Court decision, Cuyahoga Falls was the focus of another lawsuit over discrimination and housing: Mercer Brancher et al. v. The Akron Area Board of Realtors et al., also known as “The Akron Fair Housing Case.” Thomas Powell, a former University of Akron professor and resident of Cuyahoga Falls at the time, here presents a first-hand account of his family’s role in the development of this case. Powell has chosen to write his account in the first person, present tense in order to impart the sense of “bite” and immediacy he felt as an eyewitness to these events. Given recent events, his stylistic choice seems particularly appropriate-even after forty years, some of the basic issues he discusses still have currency today.

Kevin Kern

1964: The new Civil Rights Act at last applies a crucial distinction between personal property and privately owned property whose use is not personal: a principle based in English common law and enunciated clearly in Munn v. Illinois, 1877. Nobody would regulate what you do in your kitchen at home, but if you offer food for sale, your kitchen is subject to regulation because its use affects the public. Sanitation rules apply, for example. Your kitchen is still private property, but not private in the sense of “personal.”

In this Civil Rights Act the public is considered as everyone who might accept your offer of something for sale. Privately owned public facilities, such as restaurants, hotels, transportation, stores, and places of entertainment are now obliged by law to accommodate customers without regard to race, and they are also subject to regulation in this regard.
Like the reasoning in Brown v. Board of Education a decade earlier, this new law will be extremely difficult to put into effect. Ruling that racial discrimination is unconstitutional does not put an end to it. A very large segment of the public is conditioned to resist any regulation of private property, especially if it is owned individually or by a family or other small group. In no area will discrimination be more fiercely resisted than in housing. The home is sacrosanct, and by no means does everyone see that a house advertised or “listed” for sale is instantly different from the home that is one’s castle, exempt from social tensions and conflicts.


In February 1965, I have an unexpected visitor in my office at the University of Akron: Henry Aronson, who normally represents the NAACP Legal Defense in Jackson, Mississippi. He is in Akron to work with Mrs. Idell Ferguson of Advance Realty, and local civic leaders, seeking access to housing without regard to the prospective buyer’s race. At about this time, the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee is being made aware of new research which indicates that property values, long used as an excuse or justification for racial segregation of neighborhoods and communities, actually tend to hold firm or even appreciate with desegregation. In Ohio, some economists produce compelling arguments for a State Fair Housing Law. Social scientists are increasingly aware that race is a terribly flawed concept.
I am an assistant professor of history, also assistant to the vice president and dean of administration. After my Ph.D., I published some articles on American values, and I’ve signed a book contract with Washington Square Press. Now my wife Anne and I have decided to take an opportunity for me to join the faculty of my alma mater, Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. We live with our little daughters, two and three, in Cuyahoga Falls, the main suburb of Akron towards Cleveland. Our modest Cape Cod house is about to be put on the market.

My visitor, Henry Aronson, explains what the NAACP Legal Defense would like to have us do: simply attempt to list our house for sale to any qualified buyer, regardless of race. He was undoubtedly referred to me by colleagues at the university and in the Urban League, as a Euro-American person suited by convictions and circumstances for this project. The proposal has to be discussed with Anne, of course, especially because of the risks. Aronson comes to our house that evening, and briefs us frankly about the possible danger in this small all-Euro-American city contiguous with Akron. He points out, for example, that the draperies on our big living room windows will need to be kept drawn at some point, because of possible attacks. We readily agree to do as he asks, hardly imagining that Anne will soon be keeping a loaded handgun on the lunch counter when I am at work.

Idell Ferguson of Advance Realty calls the next day, and comes to the house to see it, introduce herself, and relate her role to ours. She is a brisk but engaging African American broker who will represent potential purchasers, starting with an African American couple of unimpeachable probity. The husband, who has a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, is a scientist just hired by Goodyear.

We begin to contact realtors immediately, and they are predictably eager to meet with us. Our first interview is with Mr. and Mrs. V. (names of agents not individually charged are deleted), from Gault Realty. They arrive at 926 Barnes Avenue, Cuyahoga Falls, a few minutes before seven, Friday evening, February 19, 1965. They immediately and sympathetically agree with each other that the market is poor because of overbuilding. I suggest that the real market for home sales does not appear to be fully exploited, and say that we have no wish to be exclusive. Mrs. V. catches on first and asks if I am referring to African Americans. When I say “Yes”, both she and Mr. V. say that they do wish to be exclusive. I express surprise, on the basis that a larger market should mean better sales.

During the ensuing conversation, Mrs. V. says “As realtors, we can’t sell to colored.” Mr. V. adds “You won’t find a realtor in Akron who will sell to colored.” Mrs. V. clarifies: they could not sell the first house in a neighborhood that did not already “have colored.” They explain that property values would immediately and surely drop if we were to sell to African Americans, and that there would be other unpleasant ramifications. Mr. V. says that if he were to do it, he would want to be moving to New York State too, rather than just to another street. He suggests that we will probably get a brick through the front window the first night if such an intention becomes known. Mr. and Mrs. V. both seem eager to list the house on a Euro-Americans-only basis, but will not consider showing it to African Americans. I make notes of their remarks as soon as they leave, taking care to record their exact wording and to be clear and fair in summarizing.

Mr. W. of Kallstrom’s State Road Realty in Cuyahoga Falls makes an evening appointment in response to a call from Anne. When we tell him that we see no reason to exclude prospective African American buyers, and wish the house to be shown to all comers, he tells us something of his experience. For many of his twenty-five years in the business, he worked for a downtown broker serving the whole metropolitan area. With regard to the possibility of selling to an African American outside “the normal path of expansion,” he says “The Board [of Realtors] has it whereby any company that did it would be over the well-known barrel.” He avoids commenting on Cuyahoga Falls in particular. Speaking of the whole field, he says “If I did it, I’d have to sell real estate elsewhere.” When I ask him if he means that the Board would punish his company, and his company would punish him, he says “That’s about the size of it.”

Mr. W. is an especially interesting agent to interview, because he is talkative and candid about his situation. He is evidently pained by the hypocrisy implicit in his sitting on the governing board of his church and being at the same time engaged in systematic segregation. He refers repeatedly to his dilemma, saying “Maybe I’m taking the coward’s point of view. I don’t know. I just don’t know.” He describes an African American attorney of his acquaintance whom he would find an acceptable neighbor “because he’s intelligent,” but says that if he were asked to sell our house to that man he would “be a coward” and “run away.” He emphasizes that he could not make a living without discriminating. This precisely illustrates the point we mean to pursue: that the Board of Realtors and its member agencies constitute a conspiracy to segregate. Can that point be made legally actionable?

Mr. X., vice president of Frank Krause Realtors, comes to see us a few minutes past seven, February 23. When he arrives, I’m reading to the children in the living room, and Anne is reading the Akron Beacon Journal at the lunch counter. His angle of approach to the house is such that he can see all of us as he nears the front door. When he comes in, he asks facetiously if we have been having an argument or something, that we should be reading in different rooms. Anne enters the living room at that point and says that, as a matter of fact, we have been discussing a difference of opinion. She explains that I said I would be willing to sell our house to African Americans. X. quickly makes it clear that he “agrees” with my wife, and he adopts a mildly reproving attitude toward naughty me, assuring me that it will not be necessary to resort to such drastic measures to get a good price for the house.

Mr. X. says, “Actually we are not concerned with the problem here in the Falls.” He then describes a situation that could have resulted in an African American living here. He listed a house owned by Joe McMullen, formerly at the University, and it did not sell quickly. After a while, McMullen sent him a letter (“I could show you the letter”) naming an African American dentist with an office in Akron, to whom McMullen wanted to sell. X. says that “fortunately” he was able to find another buyer. He says that his sales staff nearly “went through the ceiling” over McMullen’s expression of intent to sell to an African American. He says there are still no African Americans living in Cuyahoga Falls, as far as he knows.

X. is clearly inclined to discuss some topic other than African Americans, but I turn to the moral aspect of the subject, asking about responsibility to show housing to African Americans. X. says that the responsibility is the seller’s; that he is obliged to show where he is asked to show, but that the seller is not obliged to show to anyone he does not wish to deal with. I ask if he will show our house to an African American if I refer one to him, and he says he would, but he has never had another African American prospective buyer in Cuyahoga Falls. “They just do not seem interested in living here.” As X. and I talk, Anne answers the telephone and then calls me to take a message. She comes into the living room and sits down, and X. says to her, “Mrs. Powell, don’t worry about that problem.” She looks quizzical, and he says, in a very low voice, “The colored.”

The “colored” professor who was the star of our American history section has taken his family back to his native Virginia this academic year. He says that at least they know what to expect there. For example, he is sick of going to a drive-in (to avoid the need to enter a place), placing their orders, and then waiting, and waiting, until it is obvious that they will not be served. Needing to use restrooms is a frequent occasion of anxiety. The only attractive picnic and swimming places in this area are man-made, privately owned lakes, which are proclaimed to be private clubs, for members only. He knows that any Euro-American person can join any of these clubs for one dollar, but he will be told that membership is by invitation only, and “members” are allowed to bring non-members only with approval. As to housing…

Y. of Sanders Home Realtors arrives promptly and is all business from the start. I ask him how the market is, and he says that it is worsening somewhat. I suggest that I intend to get a fair price even if it means selling to an African American. He replies, “If you want to sell your house to a colored man, we don’t want your listing.” I ask him if he would show the house to a prospective buyer who was an African American, and he says “No, Sir. I’d hand you back your listing. My company won’t sell to colored in Cuyahoga Falls, and I don’t believe you’ll find a company that will.”

I ask Y. if some Akron realtor might sell to African Americans, and he says “I don’t think you’ll find one that will do it.” He says the reason is that property values go down “by about one third.” He says he has “busted a block or two” in his time, but only where it was inevitable that African Americans would soon be living. He says he has never gotten any request to show to African Americans in Cuyahoga Falls, and he would not do it if he did. He says there are none here, and he is not going to bring in the first one. Well, actually there is one, “but nobody knows it.” When he has an African American customer, they always reach an understanding before they begin to look at houses: he will show them only homes “where they would be comfortable.” He says that most of them accept this. He would be pleased to list our house, provided the listing is based on an “understanding” about “the colored.”

Mr. X. calls Anne about ten in the morning, and wants to list the house for sale immediately. He says he hopes he did not cause an argument between Anne and me over the matter of African Americans. She assures him that he did not, but reports that I am still talking about it, still concerned with the moral aspect. He tells her not to worry, that he can find a suitable buyer. She says that I am distressed by the inability of two African American professors to find good housing in the area, and X. says that he cannot understand why they could not.
He says he will not be the first to introduce an African American resident into Cuyahoga Falls, and that he would never “bust a block.” He says his firm has not built a reputation for forty-six years to risk ruining it; but that African Americans do not want to live here anyway, or they do not have the money or the credit to buy in our location. Anne expresses the sense that most people in town are proud of their segregation, and X. agrees. When she says she does not know what their reaction would be to a person selling to an African American, he says he would not be surprised if anyone who did it got a brick through a window. X. is willing to discuss the matter further with both of us, and will be in touch the next day, February 25. As in every instance, our notes are made right at the time.

W. Frank Peterson of St. Germain Realty Company, Akron, is our most welcome visitor, because he is President of the Akron Area Board of Realtors. He arrives with his wife about 6:30 in response to my telephone invitation. We wanted to get in some practice with other realtors before we talked with Peterson. When amenities have been observed, I tell him that I have heard the market is not very good in terms of prices holding up. He confirms this, with some vague reservations. After some further conversation along this line, I say that we cannot afford to overlook any possibility of getting a good price, and that, “between us,” I would seriously consider selling to an African American to get my price. Both Peterson and his wife look fixedly at me, she with a pained expression.

For a moment neither of them says anything; then Peterson begins to speak on an unrelated subject, as if I had not mentioned this matter at all. I do not press it, and general conversation accompanies a tour of inspection, after which we return to the living room. Anne puts the children to bed and remains out of sight, but not out of hearing. I tell the Petersons that I know African American buyers will pay premium prices for desirable housing, because I have two colleagues at the University who have never been able to find what they want. This occurs an hour and a half after the first mention of African Americans, which was so pointedly ignored.

Peterson says that, in this town, feeling about such a move would be “rabid.” He says that “the Board of Realtors has pretty well reversed its position,” as may be seen in a “recent statement of principles”: that the Board will not stand in the way of an African American buying whatever property is “available to him,” and that it is up to the seller if he wants it shown. But, he continues, the decision of the Board “would not necessarily represent” the feeling of its members, and it certainly would not reflect the feelings of the Cuyahoga Falls population.

Mrs. Peterson says that her husband is “talking out of both sides of his mouth” about the statement of principles by the Board, and that the Cuyahoga Falls members in particular “would rather die than sell to colored.” Her husband ignores her. He says that any African American buyer in Cuyahoga Falls would have to “come in with his eyes wide open” to the fact that he might be “subjected to persecution even to the point of vandalism on the premises.” To his knowledge there is not one African American in this town, and the Falls people are very “anti-integrationist” and “plan to keep it this way.” Mrs. Peterson then launches into a description of the terrible psychological suffering of children shunned by their contemporaries.

I ask Peterson about a hypothetical African American prospect from the University of Akron, perhaps my own replacement. He assures me that he would show the house to such a qualified African American buyer, that he would honor any offer the man might make, and that he would sell the house to him. He then describes all the pressures to which he, as President of the Area Board, is subjected. He has had to attend a meeting this very day with the Mayor of Akron and various “representatives” of “the colored” and of “civic organizations” to discuss a threatened boycott of realtors and the efforts of African American leaders to block the Urban Renewal project in South Akron, near the main B. F. Goodrich plant. He describes the awful consequences to the community if Goodrich moves out as a result of the actions of “the colored.”

I try to get the conversation back to the subject of real estate in general, and Peterson obliges by explaining to me various reasons why no realtor would do what he has just told me that he, President Peterson, would do. He says that Euro-American people would no longer call such a realtor to sell their homes, and his livelihood would be jeopardized to say the least. The Petersons leave the house about 9:15 after a visit of two hours and forty-five minutes, having failed to convince us to list the house with them immediately.

We invite Mr. And Mrs. Z. of Gillespie-Pilcher Realty to come by about six on Friday, the 26th. We have tried to jam a number of these similar and now familiar interviews into a short time, because these real estate people will inevitably be talking with one another, and will soon realize that something more than simply listing a house is going on here. After general preliminary conversation, I tell the Zs that there will be quite a few new faculty members coming this year, and some of them might be interested in our house; which “reminds” me that one good prospect is a brilliant young African American sociologist from Pittsburgh. Could they show him the house? They reply instantly and simultaneously.

He: “Oh, gosh, no!”
She: “Oh, my, no!”

They tell us how uncomfortable an African American would be in our location. She says that someone on Hudson Drive in the Falls had his house seen by an African American during an “open house,” and decided to sell to the African American, which he would have to do on his own. She said that this “became known,” and about a hundred and twenty-five persons congregated in front of the man’s house, and that the would-be seller had to “sit with a shotgun across his knees all night.” After that demonstration, a group of neighbors, one of them related to an officer of the First National Bank in Akron, combined their resources to buy the house, thereby preventing its sale to the African American. “They” (unclear reference) thought someone from Gillespie-Pilcher should be “in on it,” and Mrs. Z. was appointed by the firm. She said she drew up a contract for sale to the group of Euro-Americans, but “would not present it” to the prospective seller. She says she insisted that two men from the group of buyers present the contract, which they did.

I say this sounds like Mississippi, and Mrs. Z. says “It’s just the same.” She and her husband say that realtors “weren’t allowed” to sell to African Americans “before.” I ask who could prevent it, and she says she does not know who. He, after an awkward silence, says “We’d lose our licenses,” and she echoes, “Yes, we’d lose our licenses.”

I return to our situation, asking if they would at least show the house to an African American prospect. Mrs. Z. says that they would show it. “What if he made a good offer?” She says, “We don’t sell it, you sell the house.” She says they would take care of it for us, but there would be “no signs or anything” from their company. Both of them make it clear that they think this would be a “foolish” thing to attempt. There are no African Americans here, and “they” intend to “keep it that way.”

Mr. and Mrs. Z. both point out that the lending agencies here would make selling to an African American difficult and expensive. They say that where a Euro-American buyer would cost us no percentage points, or not more than two, an African American would cost us ten or twelve. They also say that the African American would have to have a very substantial down payment, or perhaps cash for the deal, because his credit maximum would be about fourteen thousand dollars.

Having said that they would handle such a sale (like Peterson), Mrs. Z. says that they “could not” break a block or “be the first.” She said that downtown, “they” [the Akron Area Board of Realtors] have “certain areas marked off in red on maps,” and that only these areas, called “shaded areas” by the initiated, are open to African Americans. (This eventually proved to be true when the records were ordered opened.) Anne records some of these comments in the family room as they are made, and I memorize others and record them after the Zs leave. They are typically eager to list the house.


Monday, March 1, I call all the realty people with whom we have talked, telling them that my wife and I have found a realtor who will show and sell our house without discriminating against anyone, and that we will not be listing with their organizations

“I hate to see you open it to everyone.”
“I talked with our company, and they wouldn’t handle it.”
“You’d better think it over pretty carefully.”
“Who’s going to do it, somebody in Cuyahoga Falls? (My reply in each instance of this question is “I don’t think I’d better tell you that.”)
“Who? We’re all under the same rules and everything.”
“If they’re not afraid of the Board… if they can do it, we can!”
“Whoever it is, he or she is just trying to get your listing. They won’t really do it.”
“If one realtor can sell to them, so can another!”
“You are going to sell to one? It isn’t just our opinion, you know, the company and everything.”
“I don’t think anyone should do it to their neighbors.”
“It’s not just us, it’s the policy.”
“Maybe some day they’ll let anyone live anywhere they want to, but it isn’t that way now.”
“I wouldn’t do it, and I’ll tell you, I’d hate to be the company or the salesman that would do it.”
“The realtors are sticking together on this. I don’t believe that realtor you have will do it.”
“I don’t actually refuse them. You’re the first in an all-white neighborhood that’s done this.”

Idell Ferguson of Advance Realty comes to talk with us on March 4, and the next morning at ten o’clock, Mr. Peterson, President of the Board of Realtors, appears at my office. He assures me of his willingness to handle the sale without discriminating against African Americans, and we sign a ninety-day listing agreement. St. Germain Realty’s ad appears on March 9. That day, Idell Ferguson calls me to report that she is unable to reach Peterson. She finally leaves a message with Mrs. Peterson, to tell her husband that she has a couple of good prospects and wishes to co-broker with him. She asks if she may show the house to an interested and qualified African American couple. Mrs. Peterson tells her that the owners would prefer that their house be shown only to Euro-Americans.


By March 10, Henry Aronson is hard at work, back in Mississippi. He writes a warm letter of thanks to Anne and me, and lets us know that Sheila Rush of the NAACP Legal Defense in New York City is drafting the complaint, conferring with Leroy Clark, Jack Greenberg, and other lawyers. On April 7 the complaint is filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division: Mercer Brancher et. al. v. The Akron Area Board of Realtors et al. Twenty-seven companies are named as defendants, after Frank Peterson by name and the Board over which he presides. “It’s a historian’s dream: not a civil rights suit because there is no such recourse presently deemed actionable, but a civil suit protesting conspiracy in restraint of trade under the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act, charging the conspiring realtors with denying buyers and sellers access to the whole market, thereby inhibiting their own allegedly sacred “free” trade.

Reading the complaint, I am distressed by some distortion, which I report in a letter to Bernard Roetzl, a local attorney engaged in the case. To my surprise, a reply comes from Sheila Rush, in the NAACP’s New York headquarters, dated April 12, 1965, addressing my concern about facts having been altered. She writes: “You are correct in discerning that…specific facts have been altered. The situation can be easily taken care of, however. If the particular company contests, it is a simple matter to amend the complaint…. The company in question did do something which would bring it within the ambit of the complaint and, as I have indicated, whether or not they did what was specifically alleged is not a cause for concern….” Not to a lawyer, I guess.[2. Mr. Roetzl wrote on April 19 that he had received an amended complaint clarifying the behavior of two realtors, in line with what was actually recorded.]

The subject of fair housing stays “in the air,” but not on the front burner. March 11, the New York Times runs a piece on page 22, reporting that the Ohio Supreme Court supports the actions of cities to ban housing discrimination. This position encourages organizations like the Akron Fair Housing Contact Service, led by Vernon Odom of the Urban League, with Julie Saltman and Walt Lehrman. On March 13, the Beacon Journal lead editorial supports the position of the State Supreme Court, as if the provision had not been included in the State Constitution in the first place. With Selma, Alabama, and Martin Luther King drawing increasing attention, President Johnson hits the headlines with admirable statements, summed up as “Justice can’t be halted.” The University of Akron was a campaign stop for him the year before, and his Great Society programs generated considerable excitement. Dr. Donald M. Henderson and Dean Bill Rogers at the University have already developed a proposal for a Community Action Program for the city, incorporating Henderson’s pioneering student volunteer program, the Akron Tutorial Project. Henderson will soon receive well deserved national attention and support with a federally funded opportunity program in East St. Louis, accredited by Southern Illinois University. This program, called the Experiment in Higher Education, will provide a national model.

On March 16, almost the entire editorial section of Akron’s daily (see A 6) is given to questions about fairness with regard to race. The realtors are amply represented, as in Marcus Gleisser’s column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Sunday the 28th, Realtors Hit ‘Fair Housing’,” (D 23) instructing real estate people how to resist both the Constitution of the State of Ohio and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Clergymen ring in, predictably, asking on a “Tri-Faith” basis (Catholic Universe, April 2, p.1) for a fair housing law. When Anne appeals to her Catholic pastor to say something to his parishioners about the immorality of their threatening our children, he says it is “too close to Holy Week” to talk about such matters.

The front page on April 7 has a one-inch underlined subhead, “Under Antitrust Law” over its two-inch headline, “Akron Realtors Sued in Housing Test Case.” Now everything is out in the open, bringing both relief and apprehension. The next day’s front page features the realtors’ hope (“Board Mum on NAACP Action”) that nothing will be ruled upon for a year or more. LBJ pledges not to withdraw from Viet Nam, and on page 12, the newspaper runs a much larger, headlined article about the housing suit, with details about the plaintiffs. Our position and participation are made public for the first time. On April 8, the New York Times picks up the story again (p. 31, “Antitrust Suit Attacks Bias in Housing”). Mrs. Ferguson has her gender changed in the newspaper of record.

Anne’s friends are warning her not to let the children out of her sight, because of threats they hear. We realize that we could not do this if the children were older, in school. Mrs. Shulo, next door, comes over and angrily throws through the patio door some baby clothes that Anne had given her. She is enraged, but still able to take communion on Sunday. The threats are alarming, punctuated by stupid, innocuous telephone calls – “Are you the city dump, collecting garbage?” etc. As they become more frequent, and more ugly and threatening than pathetic, I feel we have no choice but to keep guns at hand.

A great surprise to me, embarrassing because I got caught stereotyping too, comes from our neighbors on the other side from the Shulos. The guy wears a WW II Marine Corps fatigue hat around the house, and his wife is also an ex-Marine. They have a huge flag on a thirty-foot pole in the back yard, and a Goldwater bumper sticker on a pick-up. I think, oh-oh, these people are going to be trouble. No. They are Lutherans, and their pastor has told them, in interesting contrast to Anne’s (last) priest, that they may not discriminate racially and remain in good standing in his congregation. This couple, Dick and Marge Mix, become our staunchest allies, and he goes so far as to tell other neighbors that they will have to answer to him for any harm or threat to our children, who are playmates of his own little girls. Dick becomes a close and lasting friend to both of us, although very different in his views: a phenomenon that bears contemplating.

On April 10, the Beacon Journal really outdoes itself. Three fourths of the front page features three Euro-American police officers shot at by two African American holdup men, with photos of all and a seven by ten showing a wounded officer on a gurney with nurses and solicitous detectives in attendance; and a summary of Akron police officers who have been killed overall (the last one five years ago). The rest of the page is “Realtors Call Suit a ‘Publicity Stunt’: Peterson on NAACP.” The Cleveland Plain Dealer registers support with a feature on how crime threatens property values. Such passionate capitalism brings to mind a day when we were moving into this first house, now offered for sale. The kitchen phone is ringing as I pull in with a load of stuff. The caller is with Bache and Company, a young stockbroker with a Notre Dame class ring. He says “Mr. Powell? Hey, the President’s been shot, and it looks like he’s going to die. The market’s all shook up. You can make a killing!”
For the rest of 1965 the Akron newspaper contents itself with an occasional article like “State Housing Law Dead?,” (March 5, 1965, page 2) and everything is business as usual. On Christmas Eve the Cleveland paper, just up the road, is first to report “Realtor Bias Suit in Akron Dismissed.” Judge Girard E. Kalbfleisch does not like our Sherman Act ploy, or our complaint about realtors interfering with interstate commerce either.

About fifteen months later, the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit rules in Cincinnati in favor of the suit presented by Sheila Rush for NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. From then on, the Akron Area Board of Realtors is not “allowed” to practice racial discrimination, nor are its members. Sheila Rush writes to us, “As you know, this is a landmark case.” I think she must be either easily excited or cynical. Nothing is changed, except to call some attention to the reciprocal reinforcement between America’s prevailing economic ideology and racist practices.

Ominously, one favorite false claim by the realtors becomes grotesquely true during 1965: “They don’t want to live here anyway.” No African Americans in their right minds would move here now, especially with children. The sale of our house to a Euro-American couple is easily arranged, and we head for Syracuse in August with very mixed feelings. Fine friends, Jim and Jeanne Bailey in particular, enable us to make the best of our last months in Ohio.
After many years a book of mine[3. The Persistence of Racism in America, Rowman & Littlefield (Littlefield-Adams Quality Paperbacks), 1993.] presents the heretical and thoroughly unwelcome argument that Gunnar Myrdal and company were wrong in their “classic,” An American Dilemma (1944), and asserts, there is no conflict raging in the hearts of Americans, between their Christian and democratic principles on one hand, and their racist beliefs on the other; but that our racism is inextricably bound up with our most deeply cherished notions about ourselves and others: our love affair with “deserving,” and the mythical autonomy of the individual. (You cannot keep a good man down; Where there is a will there is a way, etc.) And people generally, even those like Mr. W. who see a problem, do not carry around “raging conflicts.” Instead, we find ways to get comfortable and “feel good about ourselves.” Or, as T. S. Eliot had it, “to think well of ourselves,” one way or another. The housing case is a little window on behavior as well as on American society.