This eight-foot high, one-half mile long "wailing wall" separated white subdivisions in Detroit from an adjoining black neighborhood. While the South was infamous for its Jim Crow laws, northern whites virulently defended de facto segregation, as this 1951 photo reveals. Source: This is Detroit: 1701-1951, Two Hundred and Fifty Years in Pictures, edited by William White (1951).
A while back, I had an opportunity to speak with an Oakland County City Prosecutor. We briefly discussed our views about the state of Detroit as it relates to our previous Mayors, from Coleman A. Young to Kwame Kilpatrick, and to our current Mayor, Dave Bing. He shared his views on how race relations and economics have always played a major role in the City since the 1920s. He spoke about how during the 1920s and after World War II, the blacks and whites that migrated from the South couldn’t get along with each other as neighbors, and that it became so bad, that ultimately a 6’ wall, about a mile long, was built on Livernois Avenue near West Eight Mile Road to separate the races.
I found this information to be so intriguing that I decided to do a little research on my own. What I found out was even more intriguing! The truth is, the wall was actually built in the Eight Mile—Wyoming area. During the late 1930s and 1940s, this area became a battleground for government housing funds. A small section (about 1/2 square mile) of this area housed a number of blacks in a predominately white neighborhood. “Over 72 percent of the property in the half-square mile black community was vacant.” This made the area “ripe for development.” The US Housing Authority saw this “area as a site for slum clearance and the construction of public housing.” The FHA viewed the area as a deterrent in gaining “subsidies and insurance for the construction of single-family residential areas…” And the City, wanted to “redevelop the “blighted area” as a means of increasing its tax base.”
In the meantime, “a developer of an all-white subdivision immediately to the west of the black neighborhood could not get FHA funding for home construction because of its proximity to a slum, considered a high risk area by government appraisers. The developer worked out a compromise with the FHA to meet the actuarial standards of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, he was able to garner loans and mortgage guarantees in exchange for the construction of a foot-thick, six-foot high wall, running for a half-mile on the property line separating the black and white neighborhoods.” This wall became “known by area residents as the “wailing wall.”
1996. The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race And In Equality In Post War Detroit, Thomas J. Sugrue. Pages 63-64.
"i diligunt legem"
"i diligunt legem" is the Latin phrase for "I Love the Law." This blog is created out of my love for the law and my desire to give back to my community.