Racial Restriction and Housing Discrimination in the Chicagoland Area


As early as 1900 when African Americans sought to move into residential areas outside of those racial zones created by states, real-estate agents and real-estate speculators stoked further racial fears as a business strategy for acquiring and selling properties. This practice, known as “Blockbusting” was used to persuade European American homeowners to sell their property and homes short to African Americans. Real-estate agents and speculators often used aggressive tactics, such as “panic-peddling to urge these owners to sell their properties before it was “too late” and the property lost value due to the arrival of African Americans in the neighborhood. Such agents frequently hired African Americans and other minorities to walk or drive through these “white neighborhoods” pretending to be home buyers or business solicitors, provoking exaggerated fears among European-American homeowners about an impending neighborhood racial change. By purchasing such homes cheaply from homeowners who believed or bought into this racial fear mongering, blockbusters sold the same properties at steep prices to African Americans who were confronted with extremely limited housing options, with stringent financing and other terms. As with previous eras, racial injustice was “good business” for European Americans. At a time when racial segregation was legal and racial animosity against African Americans characterized the cultural climate of the U.S., European Americans viewed the arrival of African Americans to neighborhoods denied to them through political and legal strategies as a serious problem that real-estate practitioners could exploit to handsome profits.

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