What Did the Contract Buyers League Do

The Contract Buyers League: A Historic Movement for Housing Rights

In the early 1960s, African Americans in Chicago faced a housing crisis. Redlining, a practice of denying financial services to residents of certain areas based on their race, had created a segregated housing market. Black families were often forced to live in crowded, dilapidated properties, while white families enjoyed newer and more spacious homes.

To make matters worse, many African Americans were lured into predatory contracts by unscrupulous real estate agents. These contracts, known as land installment contracts or contract for deeds, were structured so that buyers made regular payments to the seller without gaining any equity in the property. If the buyer missed a payment, they could be evicted without any legal recourse. Essentially, these contracts were a form of legalized theft, allowing sellers to profit off the desperation of black families.

In response to this injustice, a group of African American activists founded the Contract Buyers League in 1968. The league`s mission was to fight against discriminatory housing practices and to demand fair treatment for black homebuyers.

The league`s tactics were creative and determined. Members would attend open houses and disrupt them with chants and slogans, drawing attention to the fact that black buyers were being excluded from certain neighborhoods. They also organized a rent strike, in which tenants in one building refused to pay rent until their landlord agreed to repair the building`s unsafe conditions.

The league`s most famous action, however, was a lawsuit against the City of Chicago, filed in 1969. The lawsuit alleged that the city had engaged in a conspiracy to segregate housing and to allow predatory contracts to flourish. The case, known as Jones v. Mayer, eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The ruling held that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited private individuals and entities, as well as the government, from discriminating on the basis of race in the sale or rental of housing.

Though the Contract Buyers League disbanded in the early 1970s, its legacy was profound. The organization`s efforts helped to expose the discriminatory practices that had created a housing crisis in Chicago and throughout the United States. Its activism paved the way for fair housing laws and created a template for other housing rights organizations to follow.

The lessons of the Contract Buyers League are more relevant than ever. Racial discrimination in the housing market continues to be a problem, with black and Latino families still facing higher rates of foreclosure and discrimination in lending. By learning about the history of housing activism and engaging in grassroots organizing, we can continue to fight for a fair and just housing market for all.

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