News & Politics

Village Realtor Refuses to Show Apartment to ‘Negroes’


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

September 17, 1958, Vol. III, No. 47

Sign Offensive

Whitney North Seymour, Jr., Republican candidate for State Assembly, has called upon a local real-estate agent to remove a sign in the agent’s office refusing to show apartments to Negroes.

In a letter sent to Edmond Martin of 16 Christopher Street last week, Mr. Seymour called upon the agent to remove the sign as being not only in violation of law but also “offensive to every decent person in our community.”

The notice in the Martin office which was the subject of Mr. Seymour’s letter begins with the following sentence: “I am refusing to show apartments to Negroes at present on constitutional grounds.” It goes on to criticize the recently passed Brown-Sharkey-Isaacs Law prohibiting discrimination in privately owned multiple housing.

In his letter to the agent, Mr. Seymour urged him to adopt an approach aimed at trying to find desirable tenants for the community on an inter-racial basis along the lines of a program adopted a short time ago by real-estate interests in one section of Chicago. He stated that an affirmative rather than a negative approach would best serve the good of all residents of the community.

In releasing his letter to Mr. Martin, the Republican-candidate told The Voice: “I believe it to be the responsibility of the Assemblyman from this District to bend every effort to eliminate racial discrimination. In keeping with this belief I have sent a letter to a local real-estate agent who has stated it to be his policy flatly to refuse to show apartments to Negroes, regardless of whether they would be desirable tenants.

“I hope that other owners and agents in the District will avoid this negative approach and will instead build constructively to make the Village a harmonious inter-racial community in which all people are welcome so long as they maintain the standards of good conduct and personal responsibility that is the backbone of our community’s strength.”

Mr. Martin could not be reached for comment.

The sign in his office, to which all Negro applicants for apartments are directed, reads:

“I am refusing to show apartments to Negroes at present on constitutional grounds. I think the new intended regulation of the city government is unsound and would cause trouble. I even believe it needs testing in the courts. There would be no rights at all if one blindly obeyed a regulation of this sort. This intended regulation goes much further than any Supreme Court decision. It would also lead to much subtle-flim-flam, and I do not like flim-flam. Edmond Martin.”

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 20, 2008


Archive Highlights