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1962-1975 African American History in Greenbelt

March on Washington_NARA.jpg
March on Washington_NARA.jpg

In the early 1960s, civil rights advocates across the U.S. actively protested the unequal opportunities for African American citizens in regards to education, employment, financing, and housing. The March on Washington in August of 1963 was organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who built an alliance of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations that came together under the banner of "jobs and freedom" and culminated in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

In 1963, meetings of the Greenbelt Citizens for Fair Housing group, concerning matters of integration, sparked heated debates fueled by racism and fears of depreciating house values. (See excerpts from the News Review archives below) In 1967, the Greenbelt City Council directed owners of apartments in Greenbelt to voluntarily adopt nonsegregated rental practices. It wasn't until 1968 that Congress finally passed the Fair Housing Act (the most filibustered legislation in US history) in the aftermath of the April 4, 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the civil unrest across the country following King's death. To the best of our knowledge, African American families began moving into Greenbelt in late 1960s, early 1970s. Controversy over bussing in Prince George’s County around 1972 sparked more debate about race. 

Watch the 2021 interview of Angie Williams by Mayor Emmett Jordan

Angie and Rivers Williams dreamed of owning a home and raising a family in a safe and integrated neighborhood. They eventually settled on moving to Prince George’s County. What followed was a string of disappointments, as their initial phone calls to realtors, engendering excitement, were followed by discouragement upon a face-to-face meeting, as they were often directed to neighborhoods that were majority African American; areas that, at the time, were known for high crime rates. When they came up against the reality of racial segregation, they realized that it was naïve to think that simply being able to afford a house meant success in buying one. Eventually, however, the Williams were referred to the Greenbelt Citizens for Fair Housing, who were able to assist them in finally purchasing a home in the environment they were seeking.  On February 12, 1966, they moved into 7-H Southway in the Greenbelt Homes Inc. housing cooperative, remaining there until November 1968.  Later, they would move into a larger home more conducive to a growing family in Boxwood Village.

From the Archives of the Greenbelt News Review 

We Need You!

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A young Greenbelter explores the typewriter in the Museum house while visiting with a school group. 

As a lasting legacy of the 75th Anniversary of the City of Greenbelt, and in an effort to answer some of the questions we have about segregation and integration here, the Greenbelt Museum established an ongoing Archive of the African American Experience in Greenbelt in 2012. We need your help to make it successful. 

If you would like to share information, photographs, memories, or oral histories, please contact the Museum by calling 301-507-6582 or sending an email to director@greenbeltmuseum.org.

Additional Resources

FACT SHEET

African American History in Greenbelt

BLOG POSTS

Black History Month

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