It may be difficult for younger generations of homeowners to imagine a culture where society was tolerant to housing practices that allowed people to refuse to sell, rent to, or negotiate with a person based on their race, color, religion, etc., but that is exactly what the Fair Housing Act was established to prevent in 1968.
Through the years the Act has continued to be amended to include more protected classes - today the act protects the following classes from discrimination - race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability and familial status. The enforcement of the Act is just as important as getting it passed in 1968. That's where we, as Realtors, play a critical role. To become a real estate agent you must go through specific training on how to handle issues related to fair housing and it's one of our most important jobs to ensure discrimination doesn't occur on our watch.
In the fifty years since the Act was initially passed we have come a very long way as a society, but it would be naive to think that discrimination, on some level, doesn't still occur today. That's why if you, or someone you know, feels they have been a victim of housing discrimination it's important to report it.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of the Fair Housing Act, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has a great article that you can read here.