Excerpt from the book: “The Color of Law” By Rich Rothstein” 

The FH A’s redlining necessitated the contract sale system for black homeowners unable to obtain conventional mortgages, and this created the conditions for neighborhood deterioration.
Mark Satter was a Chicago attorney who in the early 1960s represented contract buyers facing eviction; mostly he was unsuccessful. His daughter Beryl, now a professor of history at Rutgers university describe the conditions he encountered in her memoir, “Family Properties”, and summarized them like this:
“ Because black contract buyers knew how easily they could lose their homes they struggle to make their inflated monthly payments husbands and wives both work double shifts they neglected basic maintenance. They subdivided their apartments, crammed in extra tenants and,when possible charged, their tenants with hefty rents…White people observed that their new black neighbors overcrowded and neglected their properties. Overcrowded neighborhoods meant overcrowded schools; in Chicago, officials responded by “double-shifting” the students (half attending in the morning half in the afternoon). Children were deprived of a full day of schooling and left to fend for themselves in the after-school hours. These conditions help fuel the rise of gangs, which in turn terrorized shop owners ans residents alike. In the end whites fled these these neighborhoods, not only because of the influx of black families, but also because they were upset about overcrowding the decaying schools in crime… But black contract buyers did not have the option of leaving a declining neighborhood before their properties were paid for in full – if they did they would lose everything they’d invested in that property to date. Whites could leave- blacks had to stay.”
This contract arrangement was widespread not only in Chicago but in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and probably elsewhere. In Mark Satter’s time approximately 85% of all property purchased by African-Americans in Chicago had been sold to them on contract. When the neighborhood where he worked, Lawndale on the city‘s West Side, was changing from predominately white to predominately black, more than half of the residents have been bought on contract.

 excerpts below from the book (pg 95-96 “Blockbusting”)


A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

By Richard Rothstein 

“In One respect, however, the FHA’s theories about property values could be self-fulfilling. An African influx could reduce a neighborhood’s home price as a direct result of FHA policy. The inability of African American families to obtain mortgages for suburban dwellings created opportunities for speculators and real estate agents to collude in blockbusting. Practiced across the country as it had been in East Palo Alto, blockbusting was a scheme in which speculators bought properties in borderline black-white areas; rented or sold them to African American families at above-market prices; persuaded white families residing in these neighborhoods were turning into African American slums and that values would soon fall precipitously; and then purchased the panicked whites’ homes for less than their worth.

          Blockbusters’ tactics included  hiring African American women to push carriages with their babies through white neighborhoods, hiring African American men to drive cars with radios blasting through white neighborhoods, paying African American men to accompany agents knocking on doors to see if homes were for sale, or making random telephone calls to residents of white neighborhoods and asking to speak to someone with a stereo-typically African American name like “Johnny Mae.” Speculators also took out real estate advertisements in African American newspapers, even if the featured properties were not for sale. The ad’s purpose was to attract potential African American buyers to walk around white areas that were targeted for blockbusting. In 1962 Saturday Evening Post article, an agent (using the pseudonym “Norris Vitchek”) to have arranged house burglaries in white communities to scare neighbors into believing that their communities were becoming unsafe.

          Real estate firms then sold their newly acquired properties at inflated prices to African Americans, expanding their residential boundaries. Because most black families could not qualify for mortgages under FHA and bank policies, the agents often sold these homes on installment plans, similar to the one Charles Vatterott developed in De Porres, in which no equity accumulated from down or monthly payments.  Known as contract sales these agreements usually provided that ownership would transfer to purchasers after fifteen or twenty years, but if a single monthly payment was late, the speculator could evict the would-be owner, who accumulated no equity. The inflated sale prices made it all the more that payment would not be on time. Owner-speculators could then resell these homes to new contract buyers.

          The full cycle went like this: when a neighborhood first integrated, property values increased because African Americans’ need to pay higher prices for homes than whites. But the property values fell once speculators had panicked enough white homeowners into selling at deep discounts.

excerpts below from the book (pg 49-50)



A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

By Richard Rothstein 

“IN 2014, police killed Michael Brown, a young African American man in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. Protests followed, some violent, and subsequent investigations uncovered systematic police and government abuse of residents in t city’s African American neighborhoods. The reporting made me wonder how the St. Louis metropolitan area became so segregated. It turns out that economic zoning – with a barely disguised racial overlay-played an important role.

To prevent lower-income African Americans from living in neighborhoods where middle-class whites’ resided, local and federal officials began in the 1910’s to promote zoning ordinances to reserve middle-class neighborhoods for single-family homes that lower-income families of all races could not afford. Certainly, an important and perhaps primary motivation of zoning rules that kept apartment buildings out singlefamily neighborhoods was a social class elitism that was not itself racially biased. But there was also enough open racial intent behind exclusionary zoning that it is integral to the story of de jure segregation. Such economic zoning was rare in the United States before World War I, but the Buchanan decision provoked urgent interest in zoning as a way to circumvent the ruling.

St. Louis appointed its first plan commission in 1911 and five years later hired Harland Bartholomew as its full-time planning engineer. His assignment was to categorize every structure in the city-single family residential, multifamily residential, commercial, or industrial-and then to propose rules and maps to prevent future multifamily, commercial, or industrial structures from impinging on single-family neighborhoods. If a neighborhood was covered with single-family houses with deeds that prohibited African American occupancy, this was taken into consideration at plan commission meetings and made it almost certain that the neighborhood would be zoned “first-residential,” prohibiting future construction of anything but single-family units and helping to preserve its all-white character.

According to Bartholomew, an important goal of St. Louis zoning was to prevent movement into “finer residential districts…by colored people.” He noted that without a previous zoning law, such neighborhoods have become run-down, “where values have depreciated, homes are either vacant or occupied by colored people.” The survey Bartholomew supervised before drafting the zoning ordinance listed the race of each building’s occupants. Bartholomew attempted to estimate where African American might encroach so the commission could respond with restrictions to control their spread.

The St. Louis zoning ordinance was eventually adopted in the 1919, two years after the Supreme Court’s Buchanan ruling banned racial assignments; with no reference to race, the ordinance pretended to be in compliance. Guided by Bartholomew’s survey, it designated land for future industrial development if it was in or adjacent to neighborhoods with substantial African American populations.

Once such rules were in force, plan commission meeting were consumed with requests for variances. Race was frequently a factor. For example, one meeting in 1919 debated a proposal to reclassify a single-family property from first-residential to commercial because the area to the south had been “invaded by negroes.” Bartholomew persuaded the commission members to deny the variance because, he said, keeping the first-residential designation would preserve homes in the area as unaffordable to African Americans and thus stop encroachment.”

excerpts from “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander:


pg. 181


“The claim that we really know where all the black men have gone may inspire considerable doubt. If we know why do we feign ignorance? Could it be that most people don’t know why? Is it possible that the roundup, lockdown, and exclusion of black men en masse from the body politic has occurred largely unnoticed? The answer is yes and no.


Much has been written about the ways in which people  manage to deny, even to themselves, that extraordinary atrocities, racial oppression, and other forms of human suffering have occurred or are occurring. Criminologist Stanley Cohen wrote perhaps the most important book on the subject, “States of Denial”. The book examines how individuals and institutions – victims, perpetrators, and bystanders – know about yet deny the occurrence of oppressive acts. They see only what they want to see and wear blinders to avoid seeing the rest. This has been true about slavery, genocide, torture, and every form of systemic oppression.


pg. 189


In Chicago, like the rest of the country, the War on Drugs is the engine of mass incarceration, as well as the primary cause of gross racial disparities in the criminal justice system and int the ex-offender population. About 

90 percent of those sentenced to prison for a drug offense in Illinois  are African American. White drug offenders are rarely arrested, and when they are, they are treated more favorable at every stage of the criminal justice process, including plea bargaining and sentencing. Whites are consistently more likely to avoid prison and felony charges, even when they are repeat offenders. Black offenders, by contrast, are routinely labeled felons and released into a permanent racial undercaste.


The total population of black males in Chicago with a felony record (including both current and ex-felons) is equivalent to 55 percent of the black adult male population and an astonishing 80 percent of the adult black male workforce in the Chicago area. This stunning development reflects the dramatic in the number and race of those sent to prison for drug crimes. From the Chicago region alone, the number of those annually sent to prison for drug crimes increased almost 2,000 percentfrom 469 in 1985 to 8,755 in 2005

That figure, of course does not include the thousands who avoid prison but are arrested, convicted, and sentenced to jail or probation. They, too, have criminal records that will follow them for life. More than 70 percent of all criminal cases in the Chicago area involve a class D felony drug possession charge, the lowest-level felony charge. Those who do go to prison find little freedom upon release.