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Open Housing Movement Collection- Oak Park Public Library

Identifier: 2020-001

Scope and Contents

The Oak Park Open Housing Collection contains print and audiovisual materials from 1971-2000 related to the movement for racially-integrated housing in Oak Park, with the bulk of the materials concerning the Oak Park Housing Center (OPHC). It is divided into four series: Oak Park Housing Center Records, Non-OPHC Records, News Clippings, and Audiovisual Materials. Collection materials date from 1971 to 2000. Series I includes annual reports, other institutional reports, promotional pamphlets, and letters to residents from the OPHC dating from 1971-1993. Series II contains statements, a promotional pamphlet, and an architectural home guide concerning open housing in Oak Park created by town officials, clergy, and other village members not directly associated with the OPHC, from 1971-1977. Series III is composed of news clippings related to the Oak Park Open Housing Movement from The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The World, Oak Leaves, and other print sources. These clippings date from 1973-1979. Series IV contains recordings from “Legends of Our Time,” a 1995-1996 Oak Park Public Library multimedia and oral history project that documented the history of racial diversity in Oak Park. These recordings are all available in digital and VHS copies, with several also available on DVD. Series IV also includes recordings from the 2000 Exchange Congress (Larry McClellan's keynote address as well as congress highlights and diversity-related programming) as well as other open housing-related recordings.


  • Creation: 1971 - 2014

Biographical / Historical

The Open Housing Movement in Oak Park began in the 1960s when the Village government sought to respond to the changing racial demographics of Austin and other neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side that inspired fears of resegregation and declining property values among Oak Park residents. At the urging of open housing advocates, and in addition to other community initiatives, the village government passed a Fair Housing Ordinance in 1968 (a month after the passage of the Federal Fair Housing Act) that banned discrimination in home sales, rentals, financing, and residential advertisement as well as prohibited panic peddling.

At this point, Oak Park billed itself as an open community in which racial minorities were welcome, but Roberta “Bobbie” Raymond, one of the leaders in the push for open housing, recognized the need for purposeful action to ensure the movement’s aims were met. She and other movement activists founded the Oak Park Housing Center (OPHC) in 1972 and drew from her graduate thesis in sociology, “The Challenge to Oak Park: A Suburban Community Faces Racial Change,” to develop the OPHC’s strategy for achieving a long-term racially integrated community.

Following Raymond’s blueprint, the OPHC devoted much of its energy to stabilizing the village’s rental market (approximately half of the village’s overall housing market) by offering free services to assist both prospective renters and landlords seeking tenants. Its rental counseling and referral program strove to match these parties in ways that promoted integration (both encouraging black families to move where few already lived and white families to move where white influx was low), thus preventing any specific part of Oak Park from becoming racially segregated. A nonprofit, and largely volunteer-staffed organization, the OPHC worked in coordination with the business community as well as village financial, political, and educational initiatives to further open housing. Initially run out of Raymond’s home, the First Congregational Church (now the First United Church) granted the OPHC space in its basement until 1976 when the OPHC moved to its own location at 1041 South Boulevard. Raymond would serve as the OPHC’s executive director for 27 years.

In 1977 the OPHC organized the first Oak Park Exchange Congress, which brought together representatives of integrated suburbs throughout the United States to share policy and programming ideas. Through the decades, the OPHC continued to broaden its slate of initiatives and its geographic scope. The OPHC, now called the Oak Park Regional Housing Center to reflect its expanded territory, still exists today and continues to work with local government, real estate interests, and the wider community to maintain an integrated and diverse Oak Park and surrounding areas.


8.92 Linear Feet (1 Hollinger box, 7 DVDs, 78 VHS tapes, 1 external hard drive)

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Repository Details

Part of the Oak Park Public Library Special Collections Repository

834 Lake Street
Oak Park IL 60301 USA