In the summer of 1963, civil rights activists throughout the South risked their lives to end discrimination and segregation in education, housing, employment, and voting. At President Kennedy’s request, nearly 250 lawyers met at the White House where the President urged them to use their legal training to move the struggle for the protection of civil rights from the streets to the courts. As a result, the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and its regional affiliates were born.
In 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. opened the northern front in the civil rights movement. As part of the Chicago Freedom Movement’s push for open housing, Dr. King organized freedom fighters to march in all-White southwest side neighborhoods where they were met by violent mobs. These actions laid the groundwork for the country’s passage of the Fair Housing Act. In 1969, in the aftermath of riots, violence, and mass arrests in response to Dr. King’s assassination, and political protest and police brutality at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, a group of Chicago attorneys and law firms formed the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Since that time, the organization has operated as Chicago’s preeminent non-profit, civil rights legal organization, producing important victories in fair housing, hate crime, education, and other cornerstone civil rights cases.