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Suburban Maryland Fair Housing (SMFH), Inc. records

 Collection 0238-MDHC

Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, Inc. (SMFH) was a private, non-profit organization that was involved in the promotion of fair housing in Montgomery County, Maryland from 1962-1990. The formation of this organization coincided with the national movement to promote fair housing that was part of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Subjects covered in the organization's files include: fair housing testing and compliance; discrimination in housing; fair housing legislation; racial steering in housing; blockbusting; the Montgomery County Moderate Price Dwelling Units Law, and the Fair Housing Pledge Drive. Included are briefs, notes, testimony, newsletters, organizational records, news clippings and correspondence.

This collection is processed. A detailed inventory by series is available under the Inventories/Additional Information section.


  • 1962-1986

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

This collection contains restricted material, please check the series and folder listings for additional information.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


21.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Contents

The records of Suburban Maryland Fair Housing Inc. span the years from 1962 through 1987. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, legislative testimony, organizational publications, administrative files, news clippings, fact sheets, policy statements, financial records, and reports. Important subjects addressed in the collection include: fair housing; testing for housing discrimination; blockbusting; steering by real estate agents; discrimination in housing based on race, family status, economic status, and sex; fair housing legislation, government policies on fair housing; low and moderate income housing; monitoring of fair housing compliance; and neighborhood stabilization.

Notable correspondents in this collection include: Maryland Governors Spiro T. Agnew, Marvin Mandel, and Harry Hughes; U.S. Secretaries of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) George Romney and Samuel R. Pierce; former Secretary of State Dean Acheson; U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara; Director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity Sargent Shriver; Special Counsel to the President of the United States Lee C. White; Maryland Senators Joseph D. Tydings, Paul Sarbanes, J. Glenn Bell, and Charles McC. Mathias; West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd; Pennsylvania Senator Daniel Brewster; Massachusetts Senator Edward M. Kennedy; Idaho Senator Frank Church; South Dakota Senator George McGovern; Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy; U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Thomas P. O’Neill; U.S. Congressman Gilbert Gude (MD); U.S. Congressman Michael D. Barnes (MD); U.S. Congressman Walter Fauntroy (DC); Montgomery County Executives Neal Potter, James P. Gleason, and Charles Gilchrist; City of Takoma Park Mayor Sam Abbott; Washington, DC Mayor, Walter E. Washington; and Archbishop Patrick Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington, DC.

Historical Note

Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, Inc. (SMFH) was a voluntary, non-profit organization that existed in Montgomery County, Maryland, from 1962-1990. This organization was founded and maintained by a volunteer group of Montgomery County residents committed to the principle of fair housing. The formation of SMFH coincided with the national movement to promote fair housing (also open housing) that was part of the national civil rights movement which sought to ban all forms of racial discrimination, including discrimination in the purchase or rental of housing. The organizational structure of SMFH took several years to fully develop, but eventually included four officers (president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer), a board of directors, committee leaders, and county agency observes. Notable officials of SMFH included: Rev. Dr. J. Wiley Prugh (first president of SMFH), Thomas J. Schwab, John S. DeBeers, Rev. Dr. Philip Wogaman, Peg McRory, Donald E. Jefferson, Rita Morgan, Jackie Simon, B.K. Smerko, and Walter Petzold.

During the first years of its existence SMFH concentrated on achieving fair housing by actively promoting equal housing opportunity in every Montgomery County neighborhood. As part of its initial effort to promote fair housing, SMFH organized a speakers’ bureau, a community relations committee, a research committee, and the Housing Information Service (HIS). The newly formed Housing Information Service created and maintained a roster of homes and apartments whose white owners were willing to sell or rent to African-Americans; HIS also maintained a list of African Americans who desired to buy or rent in Montgomery County. During this period SMFH launched an ambitious pledge campaign to get county residents to endorse the policy of open housing. This campaign involved the coordinated efforts of 700 SMFH volunteers who successfully obtained 15,000 signatures on the Fair Housing Pledge. By 1964, the membership of Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, Inc. had reached 1,097, and the organization moved out of the homes of its members to offices in the Cedar Lane Unitarian Church in Rockville, Maryland.

Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, Inc. continued to promote fair housing by publishing a monthly newsletter that was widely distributed as well as by means of regularly held community workshops on such topics as fair housing enforcement and new housing legislation. SMFH also provided housing information and referral services to assist minority group families seeking housing in Montgomery County. SMFH soon realized that promoting the idea of fair housing through voluntary efforts was not enough to achieve the goal of non-discrimination, and the organization began to give greater emphasis to promoting fair housing legislation. To this end, SMFH officials provided fair housing testimony at the county, state, and federal levels on a regular basis. In the mid-1960s, SMFH organized forces favorable to fair housing to appear before the Montgomery County Council to promote passage of a fair housing law. The first fair housing ordinance supported by SMFH passed in July 1967, but was invalidated by the courts later that year. A second and stronger bill passed on May 30, 1968, just one month after the U.S. Congress, at the urging of President Lyndon Johnson, passed the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

In the wake of passage of new fair housing legislation, SMFH entered a new phase of work: helping to see that fair housing laws were enforced in Montgomery County. SMFH began this new effort by initiating a testing program in which African-American and white volunteers visited houses for sale to determine if the same information was provided to each tester. SMFH continued to employ its testing services to verify and/or produce evidence of housing discrimination in an increasing variety of forms throughout the 1970s and 1980s. During this period the emphasis of the testing program shifted from realtor sales of existing homes to new home development sales and apartment rental situations.

Aware that law and legislation were not enough to achieve the goal of fair and decent housing to those in need, Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, Inc. began to develop a long-range strategy to increase the supply of low and moderate income housing. SMFH proposed a Montgomery County legislation that would require all future building developments of 50 units or more to include 15% for Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs). This bill was introduced in March of 1972 and enacted in October of 1973. An Executive veto of the landmark legislation was overridden by the Montgomery County Council in November 1973, and the Moderately Priced Housing (MPH) Law became effective in January 1974.

Throughout the rest of its existence SMFH engaged in fair housing advocacy, testing, education, research, and compliance work regarding housing discrimination. In later years, SMFH expanded its fair housing efforts to include the prevention of housing discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, marital status, and physical or mental disability. Pursuant to its manifold mission, SMFH also assisted Montgomery County complainants in filing formal complaints with appropriate county, state, and federal agencies. SMFH also initiated a program of monitoring real estate advertisements to assure that real estate companies, advertising companies, and condominium developments complied with HUD fair housing guidelines.

Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, Inc. ceased operations in 1990 when many of the functions of the organization were take over by various government agencies in wake of fair housing legislation, and SMFH lost its contract to perform fair housing testing in Montgomery County.


The collection was arranged into 8 series by the processing archivist.

Series 1
Series 2
Financial Records
Series 3
Administrative Files
Series 4
Series 5
Laws, Legislation, and Testimony
Series 6
Committees, Projects, and Cases
Series 7
Related Organizations and Agencies
Series 8
Subject Files

Processing Information

The collection was initially housed in 14 records center boxes that contained folders which were roughly arranged by type with oversized material separated and contained in a single box. After a preliminary inventory of the materials was completed, processing included the following: extensive re-foldering; removal of duplicate material; removal of paper clips, rubber bands, and folder dividers; and photocopying of acidic material. The materials were further reviewed and the decision was made to divide the collection into eight series listed.

Most original folder headings were utilized when they accurately reflected the contents of the files although new titles were assigned to combined folders, and to folders that contained material not reflected in the original title. There was also some standardization of folder titles (e.g., inversion of personal names at the head of folder titles). Folder dates for SMFH membership meeting reflect the meeting date followed by bracketed dates of accompanying material.

Following arrangement, all items were placed in acid free folders and acid-free storage boxes.

Guide to the Suburban Maryland Fair Housing, Inc. records
Dennis McGovern
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Jennie A. Levine, April 2007.
  • 2017-08-08: EAD checked and revised following ArchivesSpace migration by Emily Flint.
  • 2018-07-27: Finding aid reviewed and minor updates made by Adam Gray.
  • 2018-12-14: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Duncan Griffin.
  • 2020-07-30: Finding aid notes entered and inventory updated by Joanne Archer

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742