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.
Chicago neighborhoods began changing from 1940-1970 during the great migration when blacks started to move from the south.
When Macnamara moved into the North Lawndale community, he realized that many of his black neighbors who lived in similar houses and had similar incomes were paying far more to buy a home than white individuals. It was evident they were victims of discrimination.
Because banks and the housing administration did not loan money to blacks, they were buying homes and paying far above market value using contracts.
For example, real estate investors would buy a home from a white family for $12,000 and three days later sell the same home to a black family for $20,000. After working with the Contract Buyers League, Jack Macnamara came to realize that as much as $900 million was stolen from blacks using these contracts.
These unfair contracts restricted families from the common benefits that home owners would otherwise have, such as the ability to sell their house. The agreement made it possible for the seller to evict the buyer from their home if they missed a single payment. Macnamara concluded that when black people brought houses, they never truly owned the home.
Macnamara worked to resolve the problems associated with these restrictive contracts. His goal was to make a difference in his community. With the help of the Contract Buyers League, they ended or renegotiated the contracts with the sellers. 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 the improvement of resident’s quality of life. His research and interest centers on topics like financial exploitation of African American communities, and the culture of peace and non-violence in schools. Without Macnamara’s earnest commitment to bring this racial injustice to the light, this maltreatment might not ever have been revealed.
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