Contract sellers used every tool at their disposal to pilfer from their clients

But fight Clyde Ross did. In 1968 he joined the newly formed Contract Buyers League-a collection of black homeowners on Chicago’s South and West Sides, all of whom had been locked into the same system of predation. There was Howell Collins, whose contract called for him to pay $25,500 for a house that a speculator had bought for $14,500. There was Ruth Wells, who’d managed to pay out half her contract, expecting a mortgage, only to suddenly see an insurance bill materialize out of thin air-a requirement the seller had added without Wells’s knowledge.They scared white residents into selling low. They lied about properties’ compliance with building codes, then left the buyer responsible when city inspectors arrived. They presented themselves as real-estate brokers, when in fact they were the owners. They guided their clients to lawyers who were in on the scheme.

The Contract Buyers League fought back. Members-who would eventually number more than 500-went out to the posh suburbs where the speculators lived and embarrassed them by knocking on their neighbors’ doors and informing them of the details of the contract-lending trade. They refused to pay their installments, instead holding monthly payments in an escrow account. Then they brought a suit against the contract sellers, accusing them of buying properties and reselling in such a manner to reap from members of the Negro race large and unjust profits.

Video: The Contract Buyers League

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In return for the deprivations of their rights and privileges under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, the league demanded prayers for relief-payback of all moneys paid on contracts and all moneys paid for structural improvement of properties, at 6 percent interest minus a fair, non-discriminatory rental price for time of occupation. Moreover, the league asked the court to adjudge that the defendants had acted willfully and maliciously and that malice is the gist of this action.

Ross and the Contract Buyers League were no longer appealing to the government simply for equality. They were no longer fleeing in hopes of a better deal elsewhere. They were charging society with a crime against their community. They wanted the crime publicly ruled as such. They wanted the crime’s executors declared to be offensive to society. And they wanted restitution for the great injury brought upon them by said offenders. In 1968, Clyde Ross and the Contract Buyers League were no longer simply seeking the protection of online payday VT the law. They were seeking reparations.

II. A Difference of Kind, Not Degree

A ccording to the most-recent statistics , North Lawndale is now on the wrong end of virtually every socioeconomic indicator. In 1930 its population was 112,000. Today it is 36,000. The halcyon talk of interracial living is dead. The neighborhood is 92 percent black. Its homicide rate is 45 per 100,000-triple the rate of the city as a whole. The infant-mortality rate is 14 per 1,000-more than twice the national average. Forty-three percent of the people in North Lawndale live below the poverty line-double Chicago’s overall rate. Forty-five percent of all households are on food stamps-nearly three times the rate of the city at large. Sears, Roebuck left the neighborhood in 1987, taking 1,800 jobs with it. Kids in North Lawndale need not be confused about their prospects: Cook County’s Juvenile Temporary Detention Center sits directly adjacent to the neighborhood.

North Lawndale is an extreme portrait of the trends that ail black Chicago. Such is the magnitude of these ailments that it can be said that blacks and whites do not inhabit the same city. The average per capita income of Chicago’s white neighborhoods is almost three times that of its black neighborhoods. When the Harvard sociologist Robert J. Sampson examined incarceration rates in Chicago in his 2012 book, Great American City, he found that a black neighborhood with one of the highest incarceration rates (West Garfield Park) had a rate more than 40 times as high as the white neighborhood with the highest rate (Clearing). This is a staggering differential, even for community-level comparisons, Sampson writes. A difference of kind, not degree.