Contract sellers became rich. North Lawndale became a ghetto
Contract sellers became rich. North Lawndale became a ghetto
Contract sellers became rich. North Lawndale became a ghetto

Their efforts were buttressed by the federal government. In 1934, Congress created the Federal Housing Administration. The FHA insured private mortgages, causing a drop in interest rates and a decline in the size of the down payment required to buy a house. But an insured mortgage was not a possibility for Clyde Ross. The FHA had adopted a system of maps that rated neighborhoods according to their perceived stability payday loans Arizona. On the maps, green areas, rated A, indicated in demand neighborhoods that, as one appraiser put it, lacked a single foreigner or Negro. These neighborhoods were considered excellent prospects for insurance. Neighborhoods where black people lived were rated D and were usually considered ineligible for FHA backing. They were colored in red. Neither the percentage of black people living there nor their social class mattered. Black people were viewed as a contagion.

Explore Redlining in Chicago

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A government offering such bounty to builders and lenders could have required compliance with a nondiscrimination policy, Charles Abrams, the urban-studies expert who helped create the New York City Housing Authority, wrote in 1955. Instead, the FHA adopted a racial policy that could well have been culled from the Nuremberg laws.

Redlining went beyond FHA-backed loans and spread to the entire mortgage industry, which was already rife with racism, excluding black people from most legitimate means of obtaining a mortgage

The devastating effects are cogently outlined by Melvin L. Oliver and Thomas M. Shapiro in their 1995 book, Black Wealth/White Wealth:

Locked out of the greatest mass-based opportunity for wealth accumulation in American history, African Americans who desired and were able to afford home ownership found themselves consigned to central-city communities where their investments were affected by the self-fulfilling prophecies of the FHA appraisers: cut off from sources of new investment[,] their homes and communities deteriorated and lost value in comparison to those homes and communities that FHA appraisers deemed desirable.

In Chicago and across the country, whites looking to achieve the American dream could rely on a legitimate credit system backed by the government. Blacks were herded into the sights of unscrupulous lenders who took them for money and for sport. It was like people who like to go out and shoot lions in Africa. It was the same thrill, a housing attorney told the historian Beryl Satter in her 2009 book, Family Properties. The thrill of the chase and the kill.

The kill was profitable. At the time of his death, Lou Fushanis owned more than 600 properties, many of them in North Lawndale, and his estate was estimated to be worth $3 million. He'd made much of this money by exploiting the frustrated hopes of black migrants like Clyde Ross. During this period, according to one estimate, 85 percent of all black home buyers who bought in Chicago bought on contract. If anybody who is well established in this business in Chicago doesn't earn $100,000 a year, a contract seller told The Saturday Evening Post in 1962, he is loafing.

Clyde Ross still lives there. He still owns his home. He is 91, and the emblems of survival are all around him-awards for service in his community, pictures of his children in cap and gown. But when I asked him about his home in North Lawndale, I heard only anarchy.

We were ashamed. We did not want anyone to know that we were that ignorant, Ross told me. He was sitting at his dining-room table. His glasses were as thick as his Clarksdale drawl. I'd come out of Mississippi where there was one mess, and come up here and got in another mess. So how dumb am I? I didn't want anyone to know how dumb I was.

When I found myself caught up in it, I said, How? I just left this mess. I just left no laws. And no regard. And then I come here and get cheated wide open.' I would probably want to do some harm to some people, you know, if I had been violent like some of us. I thought, Man, I got caught up in this stuff. I can't even take care of my kids.' I didn't have enough for my kids. You could fall through the cracks easy fighting these white people. And no law.

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