Quaker History Corner #2

Early Quaker commitment to fair and open housing in the US was first exercised through the actions of Quaker Meetings, and the American Friends Service Committee. The first fair housing group in the US was probably one formed by the Friends Meeting in Syracuse in 1954. In 1958 Quakers not only provided much of the initiative, but also $2,000 of the $11,000 needed for funding an integrated housing opportunities program in Hartford, Connecticut. Quaker money also provided a third of the financing for Concord Park, Morris Milgram’s first interracial development situated just north of Philadelphia. In 1956 Quakers in the Philadelphia area organized Friends Suburban Fair Housing (now known as Suburban Fair Housing) to indicate a broader base of support. It was a real-estate firm which dealt only with open housing listings in the suburbs, and which since 1958 resulted in the integration of over one hundred neighborhoods by 1970. 

The work of the Quakers has only scratched the surface.  But it has been a remarkable accomplishment for a group, which comprises less than one tenth of one per cent of the population. The Quakers have set an example for others out of a religious concern for putting the preachments about brotherhood of man into practice.  

In 1962 the Council of Churches in Buffalo brought together a group of people to discuss how to help black families obtain housing outside of the ghetto. By mid-1963 HOME had been formed. More than half of the first board of directors was from either the Unitarian-Universalist Church or Buffalo Friends Meeting. The first official headquarters was in the Quaker Meeting House at 72 North Parade Ave. and that was where all the mail was received and the telephone calls answered. 

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Update: HOME grew rapidly and as of 2016 was able to move into its new permanent home on the corner of East Ferry and Main Street in Buffalo, which is only a few blocks from where Buffalo Quakers now meet at 1272 Delaware. Ann Huiner, of our Meeting, worked for HOME for many years. If more details are wanted as to the story of integrated housing in Buffalo one may refer to the book, Because It Is Right: Integration in Housing by James L. Hecht. This book is in the Meeting’s library.