Restrictive Covenant in North Lawndale

Restrictive Covenant

Restrictive Covenant

North Lawndale is largely composed of African Americans, and it seems the residents are segregated and pitted against one another. This is likely because there are many aspects of North Lawndale of which many are unaware.

This 12-part series will cover the history of North Lawndale and will unveil information about the community. This first installation will explain the restrictive covenant and how it relates to the North Lawndale neighborhood.

A restrictive covenant is a binding legal obligation detailing to whom a homeowner can sell. If the rules are not followed, they will face consequences. In North Lawndale, the most common restrictive covenant is race related.

Two Landmark Cases Concerning Restrictive Covenant Contracts

In the 1926 case Corrigan v. Buckley, a white seller, Irene Corrigan, wanted to sell her Washington D.C. home to a black woman, Helen Curtis. John Buckley, another white homeowner, sued to block the sale since Corrigan had signed the restrictive covenant contract.

The case made it to the Supreme Court. In the ruling, the justices stated that a private contract was not subject to the laws governed by the U.S. Constitution.

Another case concerning restrictive covenants took place in St. Louis, Missouri. The situation of this suit is different. A black family, the Shelleys, purchased a home, and due to the restrictive covenant signed by the seller, a suit was filed to reverse the sale.

Shelley v. Kraemer, 1948, the Supreme Court decided that upholding the contract would violate protections guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. This ruling made it illegal to enforce these covenants.

Consequences of Restrictive Housing in North Lawndale

In the 1920-30s restrictive housing covenants became prevalent in North Lawndale. However, in the 1940s, the practice started to skyrocket. Today, many blacks in the North Lawndale community still face a restrictive and exorbitant housing market, which makes owning a home in the neighborhood unlikely.

Since most people can not afford to buy a house at such a high cost, there are few black homeowners in the community. For this reason, there is, to a certain extent, a class division among African-American’s in North Lawndale.

The division can lead to violence by those who cannot afford to own a house and feel they deserve what others have. This ties into the high number of people incarcerated from this neighborhood. North Lawndale has 40 times as many males with criminal records as the worst surrounding white neighborhoods.

For this reason, the area is in jeopardy of further ruining itself.

The hope for the series is to provide readers information so they may gain knowledge about what is going on in their own community, thereby giving them the tools needed to help dig themselves out of their deep socio-economic hole.

By Trinity Oglesby
Edited by Cathy Milne


Northwestern University Law School: Covenants & Conventions
The Atlantic: The Racist Housing Policy That Made Your Neighborhood
Civil liberties: Corrigan v. Buckley, 271 U.S. 323 (1926)
CaseBriefs: Shelley v. Kraemer

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Ian Freimuth’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License


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