And though his name is never mentioned in the text, just around the historical corner is another Chicago community organizer, the most famous since Martin Luther King Jr. marched through Cicero. It’s ironic that President Obama’s first task in office will not be fighting overt racism, but cleaning up yet another mess that the mortgage industry has left in its wake. (Between 2004 and 2006, the city in America with the most residents holding subprime loans was Chicago.)

In her conclusion, written just before publication, Satter draws direct parallels between the contract sellers of the 1950s and 1960s and the predatory lending practices of the last few years. “ ‘Ghetto lending’ practices of the 1960s have metastasized,” she quotes one legal scholar as saying. “We are all in the ghetto now.” And how will we escape? Before his death, Mark Satter argued that the federal government needed to right its many wrongs by creating “job opportunities for all who would work” through a WPA-like program. It seems to be one argument he may finally win. 

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Helene Stapinski is the author of Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History.