Civil Rights and Humanity: A brief story depicting Habitat for Humanity’s connection to the Civil Rights movement

 In celebration of the life and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we took a look back in the history books and found a heartwarming connection between Dr. King, the Koinonia Farm, and our Habitat for Humanity founders, Millard and Linda Fuller.
 
The story begins with a gentleman by the name of Dr. Clarence Leonard Jordan (1912-1969), who cofounded Koinonia Farm in 1942 in Americus, Georgia. Jordan had received support from local residents until the summer of 1956. It was in this year that segregationists organized a boycott after Jordan backed the attempt by a black member of the community to enroll at the University of Georgia. As a result,  Koinonia supporters were forced to seek alternate ways to market the farm’s products, and then on January 14, the farm’s roadside market was set on fire, causing nearly $7,000 in damage. Unfortunately, the attacks did not stop there; four days later, another building on the farm was burned to the ground, and arson was attempted on the barn of a sympathetic neighbor. 
 
Frustrated and disheartened, Dr. Jordan wrote a letter to Dr. King to seek insurance advice. He explained that the farm’s insurance had been “canceled so much that we have exhausted every source we know.”
 
Dr. King responded with words of encouragement and a referral to an Atlanta-based insurance agency that could possibly help Dr. Jordan and the Koinonia community. Here is an excerpt from Dr. King’s letter written on February 10, 1957:
 
“…You and the Koinonia Community have been in my prayers continually for the last several months. The injustices and indignities that you are now confronting certainly leave you in trying moments. I hope, however, that you will gain consolation from the fact that in your struggle for freedom and a true Christian community you have cosmic companionship. God grant that this tragic midnight of man’s inhumanity to man will soon pass and the bright daybreak of freedom and brotherhood will come into being.”
 
Enter the Fullers, who visited Koinonia in 1965 after recently leaving a successful business and affluent lifestyle in Montgomery, Alabama, to begin a new life of Christian service. While there, Jordan and the Fullers developed the concept of “partnership housing,” in which people in need of adequate shelter would work alongside volunteers to build decent houses. These houses would not be built for profit, and no interest would be charged on the loans. In addition, building costs for each home would come from “The Fund for Humanity,” which would also be used to build more houses. Money for this would come from house payments, fundraising, and no-interest loans provided by supporters.
 
After Koinonia laid out 42 half-acre house sites with four acres reserved as a community park and recreational area in 1968, people all over the country donated capital to start homebuilding. Thus, Habitat for Humanity was born.
 
On this January 15, Habitat for Humanity thanks Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the guidance and support he gave to Dr. Jordan and the Koinonia Community. He believed that every person deserves equal rights, and this is an ideal we strive to uphold each day as we help families achieve their dream of homeownership.
Sources: Stanford University: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project