Emily Mack

May 2, 2022

The sign puts it frankly: “This home at 6823 S. Aberdeen was legally stolen from black couple Mr. and Mrs. James and Lula Malone on October 30, 1963 in a widespread land sale contract scam.” Situated in front of the property in question, a vacant home in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, the scene tells an even larger story of inequity. One that is ongoing and embedded into the block.

Local artist and activist Tonika Lewis Johnson installed that sign, and others across Englewood, as part of a project titled “Inequity for Sale.” Aiming to expose how the effect of land sale contracts during the 1950s and ‘60s is still visible today, Johnson’s work has made headlines. And her recent podcast “Legally Stolen” offers listeners an even deeper historical dive.

Produced in conjunction with the National Public Housing Museum (NPHM), “Legally Stolen” is a podcast in three parts which culminated in a live event on April 28, presented by WBEZ at King-Kennedy College. There, Johnson was joined onstage by co-host Tiff Beatty, the NPHM programming director, as well as two expert panelists: Amber Hendley, co-author of the study “The Plunder of Black Wealth in Chicago,” and Marisa Novara, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Housing.