Jack Macnamara Works to End Discriminatory Practices in Chicago


Jack Macnamara is an 80-year-old Jesuit Seminarian from Chicago, Illinois. He was the chief organizer of the Contract Buyers League of Chicago, which helped many black people gain fair pricing for the overpriced homes they were purchasing. Macnamara helped start this league in June 1966.

When he moved into the North Lawndale community he realized that many of his black neighbors who lived in similar houses and had similar incomes were being discriminated against. It became evident that they paid much more for their home than a white individual.

Macnamara focused on making a change to neighborhoods across America where black families who bought homes on contracts and sold to them for above market value. Those who accepted the contracts weak positioning power such as not owning much, not having a source of income, or place of residence.

He discovered that “when black people buy houses, they never truly own the house. The neighborhoods started to change from 1940-1970 during the great migration when blacks started to move from the south. Real estate would buy houses outgoing from whites for 12,000. Three days later they sold the houses to black families, they paid interest on the home and it cost blacks 20,000 more .”

When the houses were sold to those in the black community, the contact restricted families the usual benefits that home owners would normally have, such as the ability to sell their house. The contract made it possible for the seller to evict them from their home if they missed a single payment. After working with the Contract Buyers League, Jack Macnamara came to realize that $900 million was stolen from blacks that accepted these contracts.

This is the problem that Macnamara took it upon himself to fight daily. Ever since he moved into the area, his goal was to make a difference and that is exactly what he did. Macnamara believes that “nothing would have happened if we did not listen to the people in the neighborhood; especially because banks and the housing administration did not loan money to blacks.”

Macnamara found out that problems with these restricting contracts could be resolved. The Contract Buyers League worked to end or have sellers renegotiate their contracts. The sellers took more than their fair share of money from Chicago’s residents.

The same problem was identified in the Austin community and he explained that the Women of the Community Advisory Council said: “Kids cannot be ready to learn in a community that has gangs and drugs, where they see beatings and hear gun shots in and outside of the classroom.”

He contends that when “you have a group of people organizing, talking, meeting, explaining, and doing research, like those within the Contract Buyers League, then change will be made.”

Currently, Macnamara is a visiting scholar at Loyola University Chicago and serves on the board of Austin Coming Together (ACT). Serving as the treasurer of the organization’s executive community, he works together with others to promote community building and improve the quality of life. His research and interest center on topics like financial exploitation of African American communities and the culture of peace and non-violence in schools.

Written by Alexandra Martin and Brielle Buford
Edited by C. Milne and J. Smith


Interview: Jack Macnamara on July 27, 2017
Loyola University Chicago: Staff and Visiting Scholars

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Jonathan Lee’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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