Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Contract Selling, 2016

Here is a recent article talking about the practice of contract selling rearing it's ugly head again in 2016. Buyers please beware of what you're getting into.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Exhibit Opening - 7/16

The Contract Buyers League Exhibit

Clyde Ross, Jack Macnamara, and Jeff McCarter

North Lawndale Historical and Cultural Society Board President thanks all for attending.

"Family Properties" author Beryl Satter addresses the audience.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Ongoing Exhibition

For those interested in viewing the Contract Buyers League exhibit, beginning on Tuesday, July 21, it will be at Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago, North Lawndale, 3555 W Ogden Ave.  The exhibit is open to the public from 10am-4pm.  Please feel free to come at any time, and tell your friends.

Thank you.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Exhibition Opening

The Contract Buyers League exhibition is opening this Thursday, July 16th!  Please join us at the Homan Square Community Center from 5:00 - 8:00 pm.  A small program will take place at approximately 6:30.  Refreshments will be served.

And in case you cannot make on Thursday night, the exhibition will also be open this Saturday, July 18th, from 1:00 - 5:00 pm.  Hope to see you there one of the days!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Contract Selling Diagrams

Some diagrams outlining the exploitative contract selling process that occurred.  A preview of the upcoming exhibit, opening at the Homan Square Community Center next Thursday at 5pm.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Ongoing Exhibit

Thank you everyone who has taken some time to read this blog and for those that dig deeper into the history of the CBL, North Lawndale, and the themes of this blog. It's been awhile since I've posted here, but in the coming month I hope to do so a little more often.  We are working to complete a small exhibit about the CBL to be displayed in North Lawndale.  Information and progress of the developing exhibit will be posted here.  Feel free to comment and share, give suggestions, edits, etc.  Look for more to come soon....

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Case for Reparations

This article was the feature story of the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  It's been out for over a month, but just in case you missed it, it focuses on North Lawndale and Clyde Ross of the CBL.  

The Case for Reparations

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Chicago Freedom Movement and the CBL

With the recent 50th anniversary for the March on Washington, I’d like to post about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s relation to contract selling and the Contract Buyers League.  In 1966, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) brought their civil rights campaign north to Chicago.  With the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations (CCCO), a local group led by Al Raby, they began the Chicago Freedom Movement.  The movement was dedicated to ending housing discrimination in Chicago and focused on ending slums in the city.  They chose to focus on North Lawndale, and King even moved his family into an apartment at 1550 S Hamlin. John McKnight,  who was the Midwest Director of the US Civil Rights Commission (1965-1969), describes how he worked with Jim Bevel to try and persuade Dr. King to fight against contract selling, and ultimately the explanation of why they did not take on this fight:

...Bevel was the first person who was a real activist who seemed really interested in [contract selling].  ...And so I got him all set up to go to the next staff meeting and make a presentation about this whole thing.  And he did that, I mean I didn’t go, I wasn’t in their inner circle.  He came back and he said to me, it didn’t work.  And I said, why do you think that is.  He said, well, the other idea that we’re looking at is creating tenants unions.  He said, and the argument that won the day was tenants unions because if people have contracts they are at least well enough off to own property.  But the tenants weren’t, they were totally bereft of any resources.2

The Chicago Freedom Movement went on to organize tenants unions and lead marches into all-white neighborhoods where they were often met with violent responses.  They held a freedom rally at Soldier Field, and King posted a list of demands for open housing on the doors of City Hall that would have benefited contract buyers as well.  Here is a link to a collection of Tribune photos of King’s time in Chicago.

King speaking at Soldier Field rally (Tribune)
John McKnight had learned about contract selling a decade earlier from attending public meetings with Mark Satter.  His hopes of King and the SCLC fighting against contract selling were dashed, but something else was going on at the same time.  There was a new conservative bishop in Chicago, who didn’t want the church involved with the civil rights movement.  Monsignior Jack Egan was the spearhead of almost all church involvement in these activities.  So the bishop exiled Egan to a declining parish in North Lawndale, Presentation Parish.3

1 "Chicago Freedom Movement, 1966"
2 Interview with John McKnight, Nov. 7, 2012.
3 Frisbie. "An Alley in Chicago". Ch. 16.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

More CBL Homes Today!

(All photographs by John Wolf.)

I spent another afternoon recently going around part of the neighborhood to photograph CBL homes and talk to residents.  There were some vacant lots, but the majority of the homes were beautiful and well-maintained.  One woman that I spoke with was certain that her landlady was involved in the CBL, so she was going to talk to her bout all of this and respond back to us.  Another man I spoke with was a teenager during the time of the CBL, and he recalled his block being lined with sheriffs evicting some of his neighbors.  There are still many more CBL homes to photograph and document, and many residents to reach out to!  More to come...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

CBL Addresses, Today!

Over the past several months of collecting information on the CBL, I have been compiling a roster of CBL members and addresses.  Many of the addresses we found are from a photograph in the 1972 Atlantic Monthly article, some names were listed in court documents, but not their addresses, and a few more were taken from various newspaper articles written about individual members of the CBL.  We don't know if any CBL members are still living in these homes.  We aren't even sure if many of these homes are still standing.

So this past Monday, I started going to these addresses to see what condition the buildings are in, and to ring some doorbells and talk to the residents to find out if any CBL members are still living or if their families are still living in the same homes that were bought on contract in the 50s and 60s.  I didn't really know what to expect.  It started out pretty discouraging;  4 of the first 5 addresses I went to are now vacant lots.  There was hope though.  I talked to the residents in the one house still there and explained the CBL to them.  They did not know anything about it, but the last name of the CBL resident for that address is the name of their landlady, so they were going to tell her about our interest and plans for an exhibit.

I made it to about 30 addresses that afternoon.  I came across a few more vacant lots and a few vacant, boarded up buildings, but many of them are still standing and have someone living there.  I talked to one man whose mother was in the CBL, another woman said her in-laws had bought their house on contract and were a part of the CBL but are now deceased, and a teenage boy who was going to relay the information to his 82-year-old grandmother.

Here are some photos of CBL homes that were owned with pride.  More to come...

(All photographs by John Wolf.)

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Emergence of Exploitative Contract Selling, Part 4: The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 and the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 are two key acts of federal legislation that were passed to combat various discriminatory housing practices around the country.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968, also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on April 11, 1968, one week after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was the final piece of Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s, and came from the recommendations of the Kerner Commission, which stated that residential segregation was the primary cause for urban unrest, only after the rioting following Martin Luther King’s assassination.1  The Fair Housing Act made illegal the discriminatory practices of redlining, racial covenants, and blockbusting that resulted in segregation.  It prohibits discrimination in the sale and rental of housing by landlords, real estate companies, banks, lending institutions, and insurance companies on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin.  Sex, disability, and familial status were included in later amendments.2  The Civil Rights Act of 1866 had prohibited discrimination in housing, but there were no enforcement provisions until 1968 with the creation of HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.3 

The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was passed to ensure banks make credit available to all parts of the communities they serve, including low- to moderate-income, and minority communities.4  Banks would accept deposits from African Americans, but then refused to extend credit to those families because they were in "redlined" neighborhoods.  The CRA was passed to promote banking services in these communities and to move private funds back into urban neighborhoods.  Gale Cincotta, of Chicago’s National People’s Action, led the fight to pass the CRA through Congress and enforce it.5  The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act of 1975 was passed to collect data and ensure disclosure, and the CRA was passed to use that data to implement policy.  The two were meant to work together.  It was Gale Cincotta’s belief and efforts to get these acts of legislation passed to improve the lending conditions in urban neighborhoods.

Emergence of Exploitative Contract Selling, Part 1: An Introduction  

Emergence of Exploitative Contract Selling, Part 2:  Restrictive Covenants and Real Estate Boards

Emergence of Exploitative Contract Selling, Part 3: The Federal Housing Administration

“Kerner Report”. Wikipedia.
2 “1968: Federal Fair Housing Act”.
3 “The Fair Housing Act of 1968”.
4 “Community Reinvestment Act (CRA)”.
5 “Community Reinvestment Act”. Wikipedia.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Great Migration and Segregation

Black Population Change,  North Lawndale outlined in red.
(Source: ProPublica, Housing Segregation: the Great Migration and Beyond by Jeff Larson and Nikole Hannah-Jones)
Isabel Wilkerson, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Warmth of Other Suns, described the Great Migration as "six million black Southerners [moving] out of the terror of Jim Crow to an uncertain existence in the North and Midwest."1 

African Americans left the South in large numbers from 1910 to 1970.  They were leaving behind the white oppression of segregation, the Jim Crow laws, and lack of opportunity in the South, in search of industrial jobs, better schools, and the right to vote in the North.  Many found work in sectors such as railroad expansion, meatpacking, the stockyards, and the steel, auto, and shipbuilding industries.  The first major phase of migration occurred during WWI, which effectively stopped immigration from Eastern Europe.  Increased manufacturing during the wartime economy opened up jobs for many African Americans in northern cities.  WWII similarly stimulated an increase in the northern migration of African Americans. 2

(Source: University of Illinois at Chicago, The University Library, Special Collections Department, Chicago Urban League Records [CUL neg. 53])

Upon arrival to northern cities, African Americans would be confined to live in certain areas because of racial segregation and racial restrictive covenants.  In Chicago, this area was on the south side and called the "Black Belt", which today is the Bronzeville neighborhood.  In the "Black Metropolis" of Chicago, the African American community was able to develop their own infrastructure of newspapers, businesses, jazz clubs, churches, and political organizations.  Between 1940 and 1960, the African American population of Chicago increased from 278,000 to 813,000.  The Bronzeville neighborhood became so overcrowded that African Americans searched for housing in other parts of the city, particularly on the west side and in North Lawndale.3

In North Lawndale and elsewhere, realtors induced panic in white homeowners who feared the arrival of African Americans to their neighborhoods.  Thus, white homeowners sold their homes to realtors for less than the actual value of the home.  Then by exploiting the desperate need for adequate housing within the African American community, the realtor would sell the property to black families on contract at well-above market value.  This was a system of blockbusting, panic-peddling, and contract selling, when a contract buyer would be evicted for missing a single payment on their property without the right to recover any of the payment they had already put into that home.

1 "Great Migration(African American)", Cultural Changes. Wikipedia, Online.
2 Encyclopedia of Chicago. "Great Migration". Online.
3 "Great Migration(African American)". Wikipedia, Online.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Blacks and Jews #2

This is the second of three clips taken from the documentary Blacks and Jews.  This clip shows some of the protests and actions of the CBL.  Mr. Clyde Ross talks about his view of the sellers.  There is NBC news footage from 1969 explaining the terms faced by the contract buyers.

Blacks and Jews is a documentary that examines the relationships and conflicts between Black and Jewish activists.  For more information on the film, click here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It is a Small World After All...

My name is Blaire Lewis, I am a first year doctoral student at the Adler School of Professional Psychology for clinical psychology.  This spring 2013 semester I am enrolled in Community Psychology.  In this course we learn the principles, standards, and functions of community psychology such as advocacy, social justice, and empowerment.  During this semester I am also, along with my fellow colleagues, working with an organization on a community service practicum (CSP).  The organization I work closely with is Neighborhood Housing Services-North Lawndale (NHS).  While working with NHS of North Lawndale, I have learned a great deal concerning housing and homeownership.  Together we incorporate the goal of the organization through utilizing principles of community psychology to improve North Lawndale with the end goal of increasing homeownership in North Lawndale.

During my time spent with NHS, I have learned about the history of the Contract Buyers League (CBL) and many of the people that played a major role in making CBL a success.  One of those influential leaders was Jack Macnamara.  Surprisingly, I was in my community psychology class when my instructor handed out an article written by John Macnamara titled “How real estate exploitation helps produce ghettos”.  I asked my instructor “Is this Jack MacNamara?”  She replied, “No.”  Well as I began to skim the article a couple of words stood out to me like Lawndale and contract buying.  I thought to myself, John Macnamara and Jack Macnamara must be the same person, or else this is too coincidental that these two men have the same last name and similar advocacy backgrounds in Lawndale.  Maybe the two are related? 

Ironically, the day John Macnamara came to visit our class as a guest speaker, it turned out that Jack and John are the same man.  I was glad to be a well-informed student because of my previous knowledge that I learned at CSP with NHS.  In addition to his article, I knew a bit more about Jack and the CBL.  After he spoke to my class, sharing his experience working with CBL, we had a chance to speak concerning our connection with NHS.  My first encounter with Jack Macnamara was a shocking event because I would have never guessed that some of the people I read, learn, and hear about at CSP would show up in my class!  I guess it is a small world after all!