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Our Vision For Rebuilding

We exist to be a developer and manager of community-enhancing residential and commercial properties; a partner for educational excellence; and a catalyst for community revitalization in the North Lawndale community.

History of North Lawndale

Before Lawndale became the predominately African American community that it is today, the area was primarily populated by settlers of Irish, German and Czech (Bohemian) descent. Around 1910, large numbers of Eastern European Jews, primarily Russian, migrated from the overcrowded Maxwell Street area to North Lawndale in search of better housing opportunities. Almost half of Lawndale’s new Jewish community was made up of recent immigrants fleeing persecution in their home countries. By the 1930s, North Lawndale reigned as the largest Jewish community in the city, boasting over 60 synagogues and numerous other institutions.

Between 1915 and 1970, six million African Americans left the South heading for the “Promised Land” of the North in a massive exodus known as the Great Migration. Several factors drove African Americans to leave the South, including Jim Crow segregation, lynching, and the economically exploitative sharecropping system under which many labored. In the periods around World War I and World War II, the numbers of migrants to the urban North skyrocketed, as men and women hoped to gain employment in wartime industries, find decent housing and build new lives for their families.

During the second wave of the Great Migration, between 1940-1960, Chicago’s African American population jumped from 277,731 to 812,637. Once they arrived in the city, southern migrants found themselves facing some of the same problems they fled in the South, including new forms of racism, segregation, and violence. Finding a place to live was the first battle for many, and they quickly realized they could only move into the two segregated and already
overcrowded “ghettos” open to African Americans ‘ the South Side “Black Belt” (Bronzeville) and Lawndale, a smaller area on the West Side of the city.

During the second wave of the Great Migration, between 1940-1960, Chicago’s African American population jumped from 277,731 to 812,637. Once they arrived in the city, southern migrants found themselves facing some of the same problems they fled in the South, including new forms of racism, segregation, and violence. Finding a place to live was the first battle for many, and they quickly realized they could only move into the two segregated and already
overcrowded “ghettos” open to African Americans’ the South Side “Black Belt” (Bronzeville) and Lawndale, a smaller area on the West Side of the city.

In the midst of the Great Migration, African Americans realized, living the American dream wasn’t as easy as once thought. Chicago constructed a dual housing market where Whites had access to multiple neighborhoods and low cost housing, while African Americans were restricted to limited areas and charged much higher prices. African Americans attempting to move out of the overcrowded, segregated “ghetto” areas, faced racism and violence including bombing, arson and rioting by Whites, while also confronting discrimination enshrined in federal and local policies such as redlining and racial restrictive covenants.

The term redlining comes from color-coded “residential security maps” used by The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and local public and private agencies, which marked neighborhoods with red lines, defining them as high risk and thus ineligible for mortgages. FHA policies effectively prevented African Americans from securing bank loans to buy homes, especially in white areas, and contributed to the decay of inner city communities by limiting access to homeownership. Whites received virtually all of the loans backed by the FHA (98 percent) between 1934-1968.

As White residents moved away from North Lawndale their properties were resold to African Americans at highly inflated prices through installment land contracts. African Americans had little choice but to purchase homes on installment contracts because they could not get bank loans due to redlining practices. Contract sellers demanded down payments but kept possession of the home titles until the entire contract was paid- which meant contract buyers never built equity in the property and could be evicted for missing even one payment. African Americans seeking scarce rental properties also face exploitation, as they were charged significantly higher prices than previous White tenants.

Attorney and civil rights activist Mark J. Satter grew up in the Jewish community of Lawndale and later moved to and purchased properties in West Garfield Park. Satter began his one-man crusade against exploitive contract sellers in 1958, after representing an African American couple at risk of losing their home for missing one payment on an over-priced contract agreement. Satter spoke out against bank redlining and credit exploitation, insisting that these practices created slums and housing shortages on the West Side and South Side. He shared his knowledge of real estate exploitation with African American Chicagoans in newspaper articles, speeches, and interviews and devoted his law practice to representing African American homeowners.

In 1966, the newly appointed pastor of Lawndale’s Presentation Church, Monsignor John J. Egan, urged his fellow seminarians to get involved in community organizing efforts in the neighborhood. One of his recruits, Jack Macnamara, helped create the Presentation Church Community Organization in 1967, which partnered with African American homeowners in Lawndale to form the Contract Buyers League (CBL) in 1968.

CBL activists and allies engaged in multiple political strategies to demand redress for discriminatory and fraudulent practices that threatened their hard earned investments in their homes. The organization spread to other neighborhoods in the city. They picketed unscrupulous contract selling companies and pursued legal strategies to get their contacts converted into traditional mortgages. They organized contract payment strikes, called the “Big hold out.” When contract sellers threatened eviction in response to the strikes, CBL engaged in mass direct action physically blocking evictions or moving people’s property back into their homes after evictions.

Lawyers for the CBL filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court against contract sellers in 1969, charging civil rights violations, fraud and conspiracy. Although CBL ultimately lost these cases, the data collected by the CBL for their lawsuits proved useful in other challenges to discrimination in federal housing policies. The work of the CBL contributed greatly to the passage of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (1975) and the Community Reinvestment Act (1977). Additionally many members of CBL were able to save their homes and renegotiate and convert contracts into traditional mortgages.

Future Vision

post1Lawndale Christian Development Corporation has an array of short term initiatives over the next 3-5 years that complement our Vision Statement and that will position us strategically to continue to love God and love our neighborhood. They are:

  • LCDC will give excellent customer service to our current and future residents in our residential and commercial properties. We will utilize the latest technologies to provide an experience that our customers will appreciate and benefit from.
  • LCDC will work to complete the Martin Luther King Historic District and fulfill the vision of neighborhood transformation at that site.
  • LCDC will build new homes and renovate existing vacant properties and create affordable home ownership opportunities for families.
  • LCDC will create new commercial development opportunities in our Target Area and therefore create new jobs for residents.
  • LCDC will continue to participate in the planning efforts of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council to create a comprehensive community plan for the North Lawndale community