Letter in opposition to the Civil Rights Bill, Salem 1966 (1)

Letter written from a Salem resident to Congressman Bates against Civil Rights Bill. The writer argues that the legislation does not recognize all Americans. Response from Bates relays his intention to vote for changes in the Bill. 

This document represents one of several materials taken from the papers of Representative William Henry Bates at Salem State College.  Bates was Essex County’s Representative in the United States House of Representativesfrom 1950-1969.  The letters reflect Essex County residents’ opinions on the Fair Housing portion of proposed Civil Rights legislation.  The Fair Housing provisions of various Civil Rights bills prohibited racial discrimination in the sale or rental of all homes.  Many Essex County residents saw this provision as a violation of their property rights.  Homeowners that lived in two- or three-family homes were particularly outraged.  The letters span from President Johnson’s first proposal of Fair Housing legislation in 1966 until 1968 when the bill was finally passed.  The tone of the letters becomes much more sympathetic after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968.  

Click here for a PDF of the transcription:

Salem, Massachusetts
July 27, 1966

Hon. [William] Bates
House Office Building
Washington, D. C.

Dear Representative Bates:

I had to write at the same time about our concern and the concern of all my friends and people with whom I come in contact in Greater Salem and the County about the nibbling away of our rights by new laws being created under the current wave of hysteria.

Especially am I referring to the pending Federal Housing Law and to “Title IV” H.R. 14765 and S. 3296.

It is a growing tendency to destroy basic rights of all Americans.  This bill goes too far.

The current Civil Rights legislation is too one-sided – it is not considering the rights of ALL Americans.  Keep America on an even keel – slow down this rush of do-good legislation that will only cause greater strife and lead to the weakening of the individual’s rights of freedom and action.

We need to look ahead to the future years and the growing danger of government control of…all our actions.

Yours truly,

July 29, 1966
Salem, Massachusetts


I was very pleased to receive your thoughtful letter thanking me for the small part which I played in your son and daughter-in-law’s visit to the Nation’s Capital.

In regard to your opposition to Title IV of the Civil Rights Bill, I intend to vote for certain changes in Title IV but just what amendments will be offered I am not certain at this time.  However, I do not intend to vote for any legislation which is more stringent than we presently have in Massachusetts.

With kindest regards, I am
Sincerely yours,

William H. Bates


Letter to Congressman Bates, July 27, 1966. William Henry Bates Papers, 1941-1973. North Shore Political Archives 98-02, Folder: “Legislative Files-Judiciary-Civil Rights Act (1966) Box 3-4. Salem State College Archives.