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Black History Month 2024

African Americans Who Have Impacted the Real Estate Industry

Black History Month is an opportunity to highlight the achievements and history of African Americans. Washington REALTORS® commemorates this by recognizing the history, culture, contributions, and positive impact of the Black community in housing. We also acknowledge that historical housing and lending practices have had a significant and long-lasting impact on communities of color, especially within Black communities.

Housing segregation in America did not happen by accident. The overt practice of redlining and white flight, or blockbusting, was perpetuated by lenders, the FHA, and REALTOR® associations. Sadly, effects of redlined lending maps from the mid-century still reflect racial segregation and economic disparities even today.

Help Washington REALTORS® reflect on the impactful contributions of African Americans within the real estate industry, as their influence has been profound. From breaking barriers to shaping policies, these African Americans, along with so many others, have left an undeniable mark on the industry. Let's dive into some of their stories… 

Zipporah Potter Atkins
faced a trifecta of challenges in the 17th century—single, a woman, and a free Black individual. Despite societal constraints, she used an inheritance to purchase property, a powerful statement during a time when property ownership for Black individuals was a rarity. Atkins's story resonates as a testament to resilience and the significance of property ownership for social mobility (source).

In the aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, B.C. "Buck" Franklin emerged as a leader in rebuilding Greenwood, famously known as "Black Wall Street." His efforts extended beyond community restoration, as he negotiated with insurance companies and the city to secure compensation for damages. Franklin's legacy highlights the pivotal role community leaders play in overcoming adversity (source).

Clarence Mitchell Jr., a prominent lobbyist often dubbed the "101st Senator," played a major role in the legislative advancements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. These landmark legislations broke down racial segregation barriers, finally allowing Black families to accumulate generational wealth through homeownership. Mitchell's contributions emphasize the power of advocacy and policy change in achieving fair housing (source).

In the insurance sector, Ernesta Procope, an African American businesswoman, founded E.G. Bowman Company, one of the first ever Black-owned insurance firms. Her leadership not only provided insurance coverage to Black homeowners but also shattered discriminatory barriers that were prevalent in the industry. Procope's story highlights the importance of representation & leadership in dismantling systemic obstacles (source).

Patricia Roberts Harris was the first African American woman in a U.S. cabinet-level position, she served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Beyond her role in government, Harris implemented policies to enhance affordable housing availability and improve living conditions for low-income families. Her legacy stands as a testament to the impact of representation in government and its role in addressing housing discrimination (source).

As we celebrate Black History Month, join us in honoring these individuals who, against all historical odds, significantly shaped the real estate landscape. Their stories illuminate the path toward a more inclusive and equitable industry—one that acknowledges the importance of diversity, resilience, and determination. Washington REALTORS® sees Black History Month as an opportunity to raise awareness through webinars, provide resources and education opportunities. Our goal is to present thoughtful commentary and tools for REALTORS® to better serve everyone in our communities throughout Washington.

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