Civil Rights in the North

There have been many books written about racism and the civil rights movement in the United States. Many of course have centered around Martin Luther King. Two of the best are Taylor Branch’s books. But all civil rights books have not been written only about the south i have written about Donald Carter’s award winning biography of George Wallace. True, Wallace was from Alabama but support for a Wallace presidency was, perhaps surprisingly, much more than a southern phenomenon.

Now I read another book centered in the north, the National Book Award winning “Arc of Justice” by Kevin Boyle. Centered in Detroit in the 1920s, it’s the story of a young African American doctor who decided to buy a home in a white neighborhood.

May have been right on principle but things turned out pretty badly in a very racist northern city which had a big influx of blacks from the south and a growing number of Ku Klux Klan members. A neighborhood demonstration wound up with shots being fired from the doctor’s house with one young man killed.

In Michigan, it was not a crime if someone was killed while the killer was defending his property and this was the defense used in the ensuing murder trial which was largely funded by the incipient NAACP and where the lead defense counsel was Clarence Darrow.

An interesting and very depressing tale that reminds you that racism in America knew and knows no regional bounds.


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