Black House

Property in the Promised Land: Debt, Murder, and the Modernization of Los Angeles

Tuesday, February 21, 2023 - 2:00pm to 3:15pm

USU | Grand Salon

Mark VestalWe are pleased to welcome Dr. Marques Vestal, Assistant Professor of Critical Black Urbanism at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Dr. Vestel will discuss his work on the history of property insecurity and conflict in the early 20th century Los Angeles.

Event Description

In February of 1938, two Los Angeles sheriff's deputies, who comprised the ranks of the city's eviction squad, laid dead in front of the contested home of George Farley. The Los Angeles Times claimed him a "maniac" tenant who resisted a lawful eviction for $67 in delinquent rent. The California Eagle, the city's leading Black newspaper, claimed Farley a "crazed home loser," a victim of a predatory debt collector who seized the Farley's once owned home for an unpaid street improvement bond. The open question of guilt was not who pulled trigger, but whether the bureaucratic violence of debt that financed street improvements absolved it. In this talk, Marques Vestal will solve this murder by solving Los Angeles' political and cultural economy of modernization. In doing so, we learn about the central role of racialized debt and eviction in Los Angeles' drive for growth in the dawning decades of the Twentieth Century.

About Dr. Vestal

Marques Vestal is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and Critical Black Urbanism. He serves as a Faculty Advisor for Million Dollar Hoods, a community-driven and multidisciplinary initiative documenting the human and fiscal costs of mass incarceration in Los Angeles. He also serves as a historical consultant for the Luskin Center for History and Policy. Marques is a tenant of Los Angeles and a member of the South Central local of the Los Angeles Tenants Union.

Marques is an urban historian studying the social history of residential property in Black Los Angeles during the rebellious twentieth century. His work links property conflict—the everyday contracts, solicitations, complaints, lawsuits, and murders over property—to broader transformations of real estate, urban development, and Black liberation. He argues that this space of incessant conflict is the unwritten housing policy of the United States.

Marques' research interests are broad, but center on the twentieth-century experience of a few key political relations to land: property, housing insecurity, municipal incapacity, and racial capitalism. Having witnessed, archivally and firsthand, the violence of Los Angeles' rental housing markets, he is dedicated to projects that advance social housing and horizontal tenant governance.

Communication Services

Communication services (sign language interpreters, note takers) are available for this event. Requests for services must be submitted at least five (5) working days in advance. Please contact Dr. Cedric Hackett, at or call (818) 677-3311.