University of the District of Columbia Law Review


Every legal case has a story behind it, and some, like this one, also have a legacy. This is a story about two immigrant tailors in Chicago-the white tailor's attempt to sell his tailor shop to the black tailor, and the racial discrimination they confronted together. One tailor, Ivan Thompson, was a black citizen of Great Britain living in Chicago, and the other, Martin Waysdorf, was a white Jew from Poland. He became a. U.S. citizen in 1949, after emigrating from his Polish shtetl to Chicago and escaping the Nazi Holocaust.' The Jewish tailor was my father. This article will tell the story of the lawsuit that the two tailors brought in federal court in 1976, against racial discrimination in commercial leasing. Specifically, they challenged the storefront's landlord, Sol Roman, because he refused to rent the storefront to Mr. Thompson. I was motivated to resurrect this story, and to explore its meaning in the context of Chicago's acrimonious history of racial strife, for a number of reasons. In part, I was driven by a desire to memorialize my father and the stand he took as a white person against racial discrimination, and to recognize Ivan Thompson, for speaking up along with him. In sifting through this lawsuit's old case file and the historical records surrounding it, I also sought a new appreciation and understanding of the times my family lived in while I came of age in Chicago during the second half of the last century.

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