Fair Housing In the Cold War Era

Arboretum Hosts Special May 4 Panel Discussion

All they wanted was to live in a home or apartment in Orange County. But during the Cold War era, the 1950s, many minorities found that an impossible dream.

But, that didn't stop them from fighting for their rights. On May 4, campus and community members are invited to attend a Fullerton Arboretum presentation in which those who fought for fair housing will speak about the battle.

Speakers include:

• Sammy Lee, a two-time Olympic diving gold medalist, physician, former serviceman and American goodwill ambassador. In 1954, the Korean American was told minorities were not allowed to purchase the home he had selected in Garden Grove. He fought back by contacting a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, whose recording of the housing developer's racist remarks about Asians received nationwide coverage. 

• Dorothy Mulkey, a plaintiff with her husband, Lincoln Mulkey, in the 1963 court battle involving housing discrimination in Santa Ana. Their case was used to show that Proposition 14, the initiative that eliminated all fair housing laws in the state, was unconstitutional. 

• Theresa Bernal Haught and Irene Bernal Bryant, will share the battle of their father, Alex Bernal, who resisted having his family evicted from a neighborhood in Fullerton because of a house covenant clause barring people of Mexican descent. 

• Rusty Kennedy, director of the Orange County Human Relations Commission, will discuss how his father, Ralph Kennedy, championed the civil rights of Asians, Latinos and Blacks. Kennedy, founder of the Fullerton Observer newspaper, led a campaign for fair housing in Fullerton and Orange County. 

Bob Johnson, a civil rights activist and past chair of the Orange County Fair Housing Council, will serve as moderator. Johnson became involved in fair housing issues in 1966 when he joined the newly formed Orange County Fair Housing Council. In 1978, he co-founded the Orange County Community Housing Corp., in an effort to provide housing for extremely low-income people and has been serving on the board since then.

The 4:45 p.m. discussion is held in coordination with the exhibit “New Birth of Freedom: Civil War to Civil Rights in California” in the Orange County Agricultural and Nikkei Heritage Museum on the grounds of the arboretum. The exhibit covers the debate over slavery in the state, position of ethnic minorities in the Gold Rush era, California’s part in the Civil War, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and court state-based cases that opposed discrimination in education and jobs. 

Preregistration is appreciated but not required. For more information, call 657-278-4681 or email abecker@fullerton.edu. More information is available on the Arboretum website.

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