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Race and Housing in the Postwar City: - page 11 / 23





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2,000 whites gathered outside the building chanting "we want fire, we want blood," while police stood by silently. Many policemen lived in


same neighborhood,

and the head of the Park


Improvement Association, which led the fight to keep blacks out of the area, was also a policeman. In the wake of these incidents in 1949,

white resisters in chief purpose, to

Park Manor "keep white

organized the White Circle League - its neighborhoods free from negroes."21

Chicago had always had a certain degree of racial tension, but the city's neighborhood race wars began in earnest in the mid-1940s and continued through the 1950s. By 1951, racial conflict had spread to the Chicago suburb of Cicero, where a black bus driver, Harvey E. Clark, rented an apartment in the all-white community, touching off several nights of terrorist attacks. On July 12, 1951, a white mob of as many as 3,500 persons smashed and burned the apartment house before the Clark family could move in. Leaders of the White Circle League were actively involved in inciting the Cicero mob. In the aftermath of the Cicero riot, none of the arrested rioters was indicted, but the local grand jury indicted the apartment building's owner for conspiracy "to depreciate property values by renting to a Negro."22

The events in Chicago and Cicero were duplicated elsewhere. In Detroit, in March 1950, white mobs burned crosses on the city's northwest side, where a single black family had recently moved. Detroit's mayor and city council took a public stand against "chang­ ing the racial characteristics of a neighborhood," and the neighbor­ hood improvement associations used the torch as a warning to African Americans not to cross the residential color line. "This city is again sitting on a powder keg of racial tension that is liable to explode into a situation more disastrous than the bloody race riot here in 1943," reported the Pittsburgh Courier, a black weekly news­ paper with a national readership. A few months later, as slum clear­ ance began in Detroit's central city, arsonists burned the property of several African Americans who had just moved to white neighbor­ hoods. These incidents in Detroit represented, the left-wing National Guardian asserted, a pattern of "organized violence by real estate groups to preserve lily-white neighborhoods." The fact that Detroit had almost 200 neighborhood improvement associations dedicated


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