November 13, 1940 – Supreme Court rules on Hansberry v. Lee

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On this date in 1940, the Supreme Court ruled in Hansberry v. Lee and ruling that whites cannot bar Blacks from white neighbourhoods.

Three years earlier (1937), Carl A. Hansberry, a Black businessman and the father of Lorraine Hansberry, defied the Chicago Woodlawn Property Owners’ Association by successfully negotiating the purchase of a building at 6140 Rhodes Avenue.

At about the same time Harry H. Pace, a prominent Black attorney and president of the Supreme Liberty Life Insurance Company, purchased a building just east of South Park Way on Sixtieth Street.  Anna M. Lee, a White signatory of the restrictive covenant, filed suit against Hansberry and Pace for $100,000.

When the circuit court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs for equity, the defendants carried their fight to the Supreme Court of Illinois, which also upheld the legality of the restrictive covenant, by a vote of six to one, and ordered confiscation of Hansberry’s property.

Acclaimed writer Lorraine Hansberry was nearly eight years old when her father, Carl Hansberry, decided to purchase a three-flat at 6140 S Rhodes in the white neighbourhood of Woodlawn and challenged the restrictive housing covenant that kept blacks from renting, leasing, or buying a property in the community. Shortly after moving in, the Hansberry’s were evicted based on the covenant.  Hansberry then waged a three-year legal battle for the right to live in his home. The case, Hansberry vs. Lee, resulted in a 1940 Supreme Court decision that helped to end racially discriminatory housing covenants across the city of Chicago.

Africh Royale

Africh Royale

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