Last month, Virginia Sewing and her late husband Donald Sewing were honored with the Civil Rights/Fair Housing Pioneer award for their work in advancing housing equity. The award was presented at the Prairie Village, KS “I have a Dream Celebration.”
The celebration, held on Feb. 26, was Prairie Village’s first official Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration. The event was postponed due to the January uptick in new COVID-19 cases.
The theme of the event was housing equity and it focused on the way the city’s history of redlining impacts the city today.
In the late 1960s, the Sewings became the first Back family to integrate Johnson County when they purchased their home in Fairway, KS. The two continued to push for housing equity and further integration of the community by helping other Black families purchase homes in the area.
Donald Sewing, who worked as a real estate agent, started his own company and took advantage of the 1964 Fair Housing Act and the 1968 Civil Rights Act, to help Black families purchase homes throughout previously segregated Johnson County.
By 1969, 30 Black families lived in Johnson County and by 1971, the number had grown to 70. But Prairie Village is still an almost all White town., with parts of the city still remaining 96% to 99% White.
“My parents played a major role in helping others overcome obstacles and purchase homes in our county and the entire KC metro area,” said the Sewing’s son, Henry Sewing II.