Helene Pearson's belief in homeownership was shattered in Roseland, the mostly black Chicago neighborhood where President Obama got his start as a community organizer.

Pearson, who bought her two-bedroom bungalow on South Calumet Avenue in 2006 for $160,000 with a high-interest loan, didn't attract a single offer when she put it on the market last year for $55,000. Her bank has agreed to take it back.

"I was so excited to buy my first house right down the street from my mother, but they got me good," said Pearson, 35, a counselor and mother of two. "This scarred me so badly that I never want to buy again."

For most Americans, the real estate crash is finally behind them and personal wealth is back where it was in the boom. But for African Americans, 18 years of economic progress has vanished, with an unemployment rate almost twice that of whites and a rebound in housing slips further out of reach.

The homeownership rate for blacks fell from 50 percent during the housing bubble to 43 percent in the second quarter, the lowest since 1995. For whites, the rate stopped falling two years ago, settling at about 73 percent, only 3 percentage points below the 2004 peak, according to the Census Bureau.

When the country's first black president took office in 2009, he inherited an economic and housing crisis that affected minorities disproportionately. In a speech last week on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington, he called for expanding King's dream of racial equality to include economic opportunity for all.

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