Stuff you likely won’t hear about at the Ypsi Historical Society, Volume I: The presence of the KKK in the 1920s

On occasion, I find that it’s easier to steal content than to write it myself. And, just now, I was given a terrific opportunity to do just that when my friend, the local historian Matt Siegfried, posted the following two newspaper scans to the South Adams Street page he maintains on Facebook.

From the November 7, 1923 edition of the Ypsilanti Daily Press.


From the April 17, 1924 edition of the Ypsilanti Daily Press.


I’d known, of course, that there was something of a Klan presence in Ypsilanti during this period. It’s one thing to know it in some abstract sense, though, and it’s quite another to visualize men in white robes burning a cross less than a block from where you just tucked your beautiful, little biracial kids into bed. On one hand, it’s incredibly chilling, to know that, less than 100 years ago, this kind of axial intimidation was tolerated in our City. On the other, though, it’s kind of amazing, when you think how far we’ve come in such a relatively short period of time. This isn’t to say that we don’t still have a hell of a lot of work to do – we do – but it’s good to be reminded on occasion that positive change is possible.

Here’s Matt’s take on the articles.

Ypsilanti’s black population dramatically increased in what is now known as the Great Migration (that period between the World Wars when 100s of thousands of African American families moved to northern cities in search of work and less racial restrictions). During this same time, hundreds of thousands of Eastern and Southern European immigrants were arriving for similar reasons; to escape persecution and the chance at betterment.

In response, like many places in the Midwest, a reborn Ku Klux Klan grew dramatically as nativist racists attempted to intimidate blacks (and recent European immigrants) from using their growing numbers to assert political rights, to stop blacks from moving near white neighborhoods or getting employment in white dominated workplaces and to crush any attempt of blacks and whites working together in common, as in unions.

This new Klan, centered not in the South, but in places like Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan (including Ypsilanti and Detroit, where the Klan nearly won the Mayorship in 1924) achieved a remarkable growth in this period and counted their numbers in the hundreds of thousands. These including four Governors, five Senators, two Supreme Court Justices and two future Presidents (Harding and Truman).

Here is evidence of that growth in Ypsilanti. Two articles from from the 20s show Klan activity in Ypsi in the early 1920s; one of their meetings and another on a cross burning by the Ypsilanti High School. This situation continued to get more volatile and a riot and near lynching happened in the City in the 1930s.

When asked why the cross might have been burned on the corner of Washington and Cross, near the old high school, Matt posited two theories. The cross was likely either burned there due to the proximity of Dr. Dickerson’s office (the only black physician in the City at the time), he said, or because black students were increasingly being enrolled in the high school. Those, as he cautioned me, were just guesses, though. He said he hoped to discover more as he continued to read through the local papers of the 1920s and ’30s.

[If you’re at all interested in the history of race in Ypsilanti, I’d highly recommend that you “like” Matt’s South Adams Street page on Facebook. He’s constantly turning up incredible finds.]

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  1. Posted June 16, 2014 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    This is fascinating stuff. I love hearing about local history — both the good and the bad. My parents almost didn’t marry due to my grandfather being a white supremacist — I used to wear his Klan ring before I understood what it was. He sent a note to my future dad at age 15 to stop seeing my future mom, or face the consequences (my dad was a “papist,” or Roman Catholic). This was in roughly 1939. They did stop seeing each other, but after granddad’s death, my mom got back in contact and they married in 1946. I grew up with a lot of confused feelings about all this, since my dad remained anti-black and anti-gay. We just stopped talking about it, so I don’t know how he feels now…

  2. anonymous
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    I find the phrase “it created no interest” to be of particular interest.

  3. SPLOL
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Let’s not forget that it was the whites who were the real victims here, brought to Ypsilanti against their will to work as slaves.

  4. Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    A historical footnote: There’s disagreement about whether Harding was ever a member of the KKK. There’s rumor, but no real evidence. Truman was a member briefly, when he was young, but soon repudiated it. In any case, both were notable for their support for civil rights: Harding was the first president to speak out against lynching, and Truman integrated the military.

  5. Meta
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Great point, Doug. One of the Senators with KKK ties is Robert Byrd. Following is his story. When he left office he had a 100% score with the NAACP. He also fought to fund the MLK statue in DC. You could argue that these actions were politically motivated, and don’t make up for his initial stance against integration, but it should at least be considered.

    In the early 1940s, a politically ambitious butcher from West Virginia named Bob Byrd recruited 150 of his friends and associates to form a chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. After Byrd had collected the $10 joining fee and $3 charge for a robe and hood from every applicant, the “Grand Dragon” for the mid-Atlantic states came down to tiny Crab Orchard, W.Va., to officially organize the chapter.

    As Byrd recalls now, the Klan official, Joel L. Baskin of Arlington, Va., was so impressed with the young Byrd’s organizational skills that he urged him to go into politics. “The country needs young men like you in the leadership of the nation,” Baskin said.

    The young Klan leader went on to become one of the most powerful and enduring figures in modern Senate history. Throughout a half-century on Capitol Hill, Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) has twice held the premier leadership post in the Senate, helped win ratification of the Panama Canal treaty, squeezed billions from federal coffers to aid his home state, and won praise from liberals for his opposition to the war in Iraq and his defense of minority party rights in the Senate.

    Despite his many achievements, however, the venerated Byrd has never been able to fully erase the stain of his association with one of the most reviled hate groups in the nation’s history.

    “It has emerged throughout my life to haunt and embarrass me and has taught me in a very graphic way what one major mistake can do to one’s life, career, and reputation,” Byrd wrote in a new memoir — “Robert C. Byrd: Child of the Appalachian Coalfields” — that will be published tomorrow by West Virginia University Press.

    The 770-page book is the latest in a long series of attempts by the 87-year-old Democratic patriarch to try to explain an event early in his life that threatens to define him nearly as much as his achievements in the Senate. In it, Byrd says he viewed the Klan as a useful platform from which to launch his political career. He described it essentially as a fraternal group of elites — doctors, lawyers, clergy, judges and other “upstanding people” who at no time engaged in or preached violence against blacks, Jews or Catholics, who historically were targets of the Klan.

    His latest account is consistent with others he has offered over the years that tend to minimize his direct involvement with the Klan and explain it as a youthful indiscretion. “My only explanation for the entire episode is that I was sorely afflicted with tunnel vision — a jejune and immature outlook — seeing only what I wanted to see because I thought the Klan could provide an outlet for my talents and ambitions,” Byrd wrote.

    While Byrd provides the most detailed description of his early involvement with the Klan, conceding that he reflected “the fears and prejudices I had heard throughout my boyhood,” the account is not complete. He does not acknowledge the full length of time he spent as a Klan organizer and advocate. Nor does he make any mention of a particularly incendiary letter he wrote in 1945 complaining about efforts to integrate the military.

    Byrd said in an interview last week that he never intended for his book to provide “finite details” of his Klan activities, but to show young people that there are serious consequences to one’s choices and that “you can rise above your past.”

    He suggested that his career should be judged in light of all that he did subsequently to help lift his state out of poverty, and to bring basic and critically needed services and infrastructure to West Virginia.

    “I grew up in a state where we didn’t have much hope,” Byrd said. “I wanted to help my people and give them hope. . . . I’m just proud that the people of West Virginia accepted me as I was and helped me along the way.”

    Byrd’s indelible links to the Klan — the “albatross around my neck,” as he once described it — shows the remarkable staying power of racial issues more than 40 years after the height of the civil rights movement. Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) learned that lesson the hard way at a birthday party in December 2002, when his nostalgic words about Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), who ran for president as a segregationist in 1948, caused a public uproar and cost Lott the majority leader’s post.

    Read more:

  6. Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I believe the point about who was in the 1920s Klan (Senators and such) was less about the individuals and more about showing the immense popularity held by the Klan in the period. The number of local officials in the north involved with the Klan would have been in the thousands.

    Detroit alone had up to 40,000 members of the Klan at this time, including a host of City Council members and eventually, the former Klan candidate, Charles Bowles won the mayor.

    How can we possibly understand what happens in Detroit during the 1940s and after without understanding the City’s background of having one of the, if not the, largest urban Klan organization of any city in the country?

    Isn’t that the story, and not whether Robert Byrd quit using the n-word later in life or Truman deciding that an apartheid army didn’t look good in the fight for ‘democracy’ against the Soviets?

  7. Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    They’re not mutually exclusive. History is better when it’s accurate.

  8. Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    I do not believe it is inaccurate to say that in this period future Presidents, sitting Supreme Court Justices, Mayors, Governors and a host of thousands of officials were members of the Klan. I understand there is some controversy about Harding, the rest is indisputable and just the tip of the iceberg.

  9. Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    It should also be noted that this cross-lighting incident (there would be others) was not in isolation; Ypsilanti had been the site of dogged campaigns by an early NAACP chapter (and others, like the more militant NERL) to desegregate the schools (partially successful in 1919), a long fight Jim Crow in businesses (most of which were simply off limits for blacks) that began in first decade of the 1900s and lasted twenty-five years and the first years of industrial union organizing which saw blacks and white join together and a number of Ypsilanti plants.

    The Klan here was not some fringe, but a mainstream conservative reaction to the demands Ypsilanti blacks had been making with increasing confidence. Ypsilanti, between the end of the Civil war and about 1920, had the largest black population (by percentage) of any Michigan City. It was natural, given the times, that racism and white supremacy be manifested openly here.

  10. Posted June 17, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Oh, I’m not denying that; as I said, it’s just a footnote.

  11. alan2102
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    Anarchy: a journal of desire armed. #37, Summer 1993

    Rank-and-File Radicalism within the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s

    By John Zerzan


    The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s is one of the two or three most important – and most ignored – social movements of 20th century America… Depending on one’s choice of sources, KKK membership in 1924 can be estimated at anywhere between two and eight million.(2)


    In the fairly thin literature on the subject, the Klan phenomenon is usually described simply as `nativism’. A favorite in the lexicon of orthodox historians, the term refers to an irrationality, racism, and backwardness supposedly endemic to the poorer and less-educated classes, and tending to break out in episodic bouts of violently-expressed prejudice.


    Kenneth Jackson, with his The Ku Klux Klan in the City, has been one of a very few commentators to go beyond the amorphous `nativism’ thesis and also challenge several of the prevailing stereotypes of the Klan. He argues forcefully that `the Invisible Empire of the 1920s was neither predominantly southern, nor rural, nor white supremacist, nor violent.'(4)


    As Robert Moats Miller put it, `in great areas of the country where the Klan was powerful the Negro population was insignificant, and in fact, it is probable that had not a single Negro lived in the United States, a Klan-type order would have emerged.'(8) And Robert Duffus, writing for the June 1923 World’s Week, conceded: `while the racial situation contributed to a state of mind favorable to Ku Kluxism, curiously it did not figure prominently in the Klan’s career.'(9) The Klan in fact tried to organize `colored divisions’ in Indiana and other states, to the amazement of historian Kathleen Blee.(10) Degler, who wrongly considered vigilantism to be the core trait of the Klan, admitted that such violence as there was `was directed against white, Anglo-Saxon Protestants rather than against the minorities.'(11)


    The post-war race riots of 1919 in Washington, Chicago, and East St. Louis…occurred before there were any Klansmen in those cities,(12) and in the 1920s, when the Klan grew to its great strength, the number of lynchings in the U.S. dropped to less than half the annual average of pre-war years(13) and a far smaller fraction than that by comparison with the immediately post-war years.


    If the Ku Klux Klan, then, was not predominantly southern, rural, racist, or violent, just what was the nature of this strange force which grew to such power so rapidly and spontaneously in the early-middle ’20s – and declined at least as quickly by 1925?


    Why have the few, standard accounts of the Klan been seemingly so far off? Principally because they have failed to look at the Klan phenomenon “from the bottom up,” to see KKK participants as historical subjects. One result of this is to have overlooked much material altogether. As most labor attention focuses on the unions at the expense of the individual workers, so has the Klan been ignored as a movement relevant to the history of working people….

    [full text at the link]


  12. alan2102
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    one more snippet from that article:

    the Socialist Party and the Klan formed a 1924 electoral alliance in Milwaukee to elect John Kleist, a Socialist and a Klansman, to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.(43) Robert O. Nesbitt perceived, in Wisconsin, a “tendency for German Socialists, whose most conspicuous opponents were Catholic clergy, to join the Klan.”(44) The economic populist Walter Pierce was elected governor in Oregon in 1922 by a strong agricultural protest vote, including the endorsement of the Klan and the Socialist Party. Klan candidates promised to cut taxes in half, reduce phone rates, and give aid to distressed farmers.(45) A recent study of the Klan in LaGrande, Oregon revealed that it “played a substantial role in supporting the strikers” during the nationwide railworkers’ strike of 1922.(46)

    (… darned interesting history!)

  13. Posted June 17, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    That article is shockingly naive about the history and reality of white supremacy in this country. If ends up being just another version of the argument around black Confederate soldiers. And let us be clear, we are talking about white supremacy, not racism, at the core of these movements. Within that, race is negotiated.

    I and many, many historians would long agree with many of the conclusions around the demographics and political role of the 20s Klan here (the author has discovered nothing). And the talk of violence is also misleading, by the time the Klan was strong in the North (we are talking about several different Klans and periods here), Klan violence in the south was far below what it had been in the 1860s-70s (though by no means dormant). Violence by these kinds of groups is often directed at policing their ‘own’, so no revelation there either.

    Right-wing populist movements often take on the rhetoric of class, as we can see all too well currently. Lots of Ron Paul types showed up at Occupy. The period we are talking about was one of immense social conflict with unions, inequality, migrations and war. I am not at all surprised that many hundreds of thousands of white workers without starting from simple racist convictions were attracted to the Klan.

    Absolutely none of that changes the nature of the Klan as a reactionary, white supremacist organization whose aim was to control and terrorize ‘dangerous’ populations into accepting existing power. Any look at the role played by the Klan and assorted groups in their attempt to disrupt the organizing of unions in Detroit and Michigan (read about the UP Klan and the timber and copper worker strikes) makes that abundantly clear.

  14. alan2102
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    “let us be clear, we are talking about white supremacy, not racism”

    No, let us refrain from ridiculous pedantry like that.

    “I and many, many historians would long agree with many of the conclusions around the demographics and political role of the 20s Klan here”

    So why such a hysterical reaction?

    “by the time the Klan was strong in the North (we are talking about several different Klans and periods here), Klan violence in the south was far below what it had been in the 1860s-70s (though by no means dormant).”

    Perhaps you missed the fact that the article is ENTIRELY about the klan of the 1920s, Matt. Did you read the article? Did you even notice the fact that the 1920s are mentioned in the TITLE of the article?

    “none of that changes the nature of the Klan as a reactionary, white supremacist organization whose aim was to control and terrorize ‘dangerous’ populations into accepting existing power.”

    Some facts (the behavior of SOME of them at some times and in some places) are undoubtedly consistent with that. But other facts are not. That was the point of the article. Do you question the sources cited? Degler, Jackson, etc. Or did you even bother to look at the sources? Or did you even bother to read the article?

    I’m not at all convinced of your claim to be a historian. So far, you have not behaved like one.

  15. Posted June 17, 2014 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I have been studying race and the Klan in Michigan for over a decade, and degrees in history and preservation and worked for the state of Michigan researching dozens of state historical markers, including ones connected with the Klan in Detroit, the Ossian Sweet Case and the Black Legions as well as the role of the right wing groups in the 1913 copper strike where I rewrote the marker on the Italian Hall tragedy.

    I have also have a history of anti-Klan activism (or should historians not take stands?) that goes back to the 1980s and am familiar John Zerzan through political discussions over the last 25 years, is that enough of a resume for you. (apologies for the pissing contest). I am also familiar enough with Zezran to know that I am not the first person to think he misses the point entirely on white supremacy and the centrality of race in the American landscape.

    This discussion on the northern Klan has been going on for 100 years. I would have been with the IWW in the debate back then. These things should be discussed; they are relevant now about how we view right-populist movements that make noises about big banks and such. In Ukraine, activists have had bitter debates about how to relate to the right-wing forces involved in the Maidan demonstrations, as has happened elsewhere in Europe.

  16. alan2102
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    “is that enough of a resume for you”

    What I was looking for was a fair treatment of the article in question — as would befit a real historian — or even just an indication that you had READ the article in question. Still not sure about that. The details of what you’ve done in the past don’t count for much. What you do right now counts for plenty.

    “the centrality of race in the American landscape”

    A problematic point. Because, taken as true, it has had disastrous effects on the left in the U.S. because it has destroyed what fraternity there was. The left, or “progressives”, wound up hating and denigrating workers and common people because of their oft xenophobic and ethnocentric (“racist”) tendencies. The common people were seemingly permanently alienated from the left in this way, and driven into the arms of the RP (“Reagan democrats”), tea party type factions, etc. The result (though other influences had a role also) is that now there is no left at all anymore in the U.S. Now, you could say that “what fraternity there was” was not worth saving, precisely because of such ugly tendencies, but that’s… well, a stretch, rather nihilistic.

    “how we view right-populist movements that make noises about big banks and such”

    Yes, how do “we” [sic] view right-populist movements that make noises about big banks and such? Why are the right-populist movements, consisting of common people, not economic elites, not part of the “we”? How did they get to be a “them” — no longer “us”?

  17. Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    ‘The left, or “progressives”, wound up hating and denigrating workers and common people because of their oft xenophobic and ethnocentric (“racist”) tendencies.’

    What is an ‘average worker’ anyway? When someone says that do we think of white people, black people, Latinos, men, women? My guess is most people think of a white, male NASCAR type and then make assumptions about working class politics based upon that. It seems that is where your argument leads.

    This is my problem, in a nutshell, with what you’ve written above and what Zerzan has written. The assumption in what you write is that ‘the ‘average worker’ and ‘common people’ in the country are white men. The majority of working people in this country are not white or male or any demographic that might be attracted to this stuff, and that is profoundly truer for the world as a whole.

    And while white workers were undoubtedly a majority of the labor force in the 1920s, they were hardly alone and hardly all attracted to the Klan (the Socialist and Communist parties attracted tens of thousands of white workers in the same period). Zerzan talks about how white people viewed the Klan in the 1920s. Not surprisingly, given the case he wants to make, nowhere in the article does he mention (at all) what black folks thought about the Klan in the same period. I have a feeling those views would make his argument a lot harder to make.

  18. alan2102
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    “The assumption in what you write is that ‘the ‘average worker’ and ‘common people’ in the country are white men. The majority of working people in this country are not white or male”

    As a matter of fact, the majority of working people ARE white. The majority of people in this country — about 80% — are white, and that includes working people. Why would you take issue with fundamental demographic facts? As for male/female, it is roughly equal.

    Regarding “Nascar types”: well, it is true that working class people in the U.S. have their cultural tastes and preferences, which may not be the same as yours or mine. Said tastes and preferences are frequently the subjects of derision and contempt around these parts ( and the like) — and that’s part of the problem. When you speak of making “assumptions about working class politics based upon that”, I think you are talking to someone other than me, personally; more to the average denizen of, rather than me. But to whatever extent it applies to me: I know that it is a different way of thinking and BEing, that can easily lead to different politics. And it so happens that it HAS LEAD to very different politics in recent decades. Disastrously so. The failure of liberalism, and the left, and the too-enthusiastic adoption of identity politics, has driven an entire large group of people into the arms of the right. This is bad. Very bad.


    “to identify the underprivileged on the basis of any kind of blood imagery [such as race] is at once reactionary and disastrously divisive. It cannot lead to sustained reform. It cannot lead to serious change. It can only lead to catastrophe. It shatters class solidarity (per the Marxist). It promotes partial interests at the expense of the public interest (per the liberal). Most of all it fractures almost any sense of community, however imagined. There must be minimum standards for all the members of this society: a minimum standard of education and opportu-nity for all our people. We must insist upon universal right, not the cheap option of special preferences, of particularist privilege, of self-indulgent sensitivities. The “culture of dependence” derives not from the Welfare State. Irremediable dependence derives directly and inescapably from our crippling obsessions, from social definitions founded on blood. It is time and past time that we build again. It is time and past time that we have done with the burden of blood.” — Arthur Williamson, PhD; IMAGES OF BLOOD: ETHNIC IDENTITY AND THE DESTRUCTION OF THE LEFT IN EUROPE AND AMERICA, 1972 – 1992 —

  19. Posted June 18, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    ‘Why would you take issue with fundamental demographic facts?’

    Here’s the number straight from the US government 2010 Census (

    Non-Hispanic White or European American 196,817,552 63.7 %

    Women make up a little more than 51% (51.15%) of the population,

    Making white men about 32.5% of the US population.

    Given that women are also now a majority of the labor force and that a greater percentage of white men than in any other demographic in the work force are in managerial and executive positions, I would be totally comfortable in saying that the large majority of workers in this country are not white men.

    And while I certainly agree that the left has to find a way to speak to white and especially white male workers that addresses their fears (even, or especially, the illegitimate ones) and agree that progressives have done a terrible job of framing class in the political debate in this country in a way that would reflect the real lives of US workers, blaming the left for the continuation of racism in white workers is just ridiculous.

  20. alan2102
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    “Making white men about 32.5% of the US population… the large majority of workers in this country are not white men.”

    I never said otherwise. I never said anything about white MEN being a majority. You projected that point onto me. Doggedly. I was talking about race. You’re the one who introduced sex, and then assumed that I was thinking and talking about sex when I WAS NOT. Do you usually persist in putting words into the other person’s mouth?

    “Blaming the left for the continuation of racism in white workers is just ridiculous.”

    The left is obviously not to blame for xenophobic/ethnocentric impulses, themselves. The left is to blame for what the left is to blame for: allowing identity politics to dominate, as Williamson points out in the cited article (and as others have done, before and since). As a result of that, said ugly impulses have found much more fertile ground for expression than they would otherwise have found. In that sense, the left is indeed to blame “for the continuation of racism”. Sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. Taking responsibility is like that.

  21. Posted June 18, 2014 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I think we will not get anywhere more with this.

    The difference in how to approach this can be seen through what you describe as “xenophobic/ethnocentric impulses”, as if those ‘impulses’ were not constantly formed and reformed by the reality of institutionalized white supremacy. What has plagued white workers and held back so much progress in this country, for them and everyone else, is not neccessarily a racist hatred of blacks, but a racial solidarity with the ruling class. How to break that?

    And I’ll give you the final word.

  22. alan2102
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Said impulses do not originate in institutionalized supremacies, though they might be exacerbated by them. Ethnocentricity existed long before anything resembling institutionalized supremacy existed. It is a deeply human tendency.

    I don’t see “racial solidarity with the ruling class” as the major problem. I see cultural resonance with the ruling class, or rather with the symbols that the ruling class (or its minions) emits and relies upon cynically to capture that portion of the population — tradition, family, heterosexuality, country, patriotism, religion, rkba, that whole ball of wax. Race may be a part of it, but not the main thing.

    That’s just one cultural locus, one ethnocentricity. The other — used cynically by the ruling class to entice and capture the other half of the population — evokes modernity and post-modernity, atheism/agnosticism, homo/bisexuality or metrosexuality, liberalism, feminism, multiculturalism, gun-control, etc. This ethnocentricity is, often, every bit as xenophobic and hateful as the most vile racist asshole you can imagine.

    Both ethnocentricities display effective solidarity with the ruling class; both ethnocentricities continue, overwhelmingly, to go to the polls and elect corrupt fascist warmongers (party affiliation being irrelevant at this point). How to break that?
    How do we break free from stubborn ethnocentricities that guarantee the march toward permanent war, intensified fascism/feudalism, unlimited fraud, and endless debt slavery? To break free would not ensure enlightenment, much less libertory action, but at least we would have a fighting chance.

    I think these to be good questions (from a post above):

    how do “we” [sic] view right-populist movements that make noises about big banks and such? Why are the right-populist movements, consisting of common people, not economic elites, not part of the “we”? How did they get to be a “them” — no longer “us”?

  23. alan2102
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    “How did they get to be a “them” — no longer “us”?”

    Or: How did your neighbor — the guy who makes 40 grand a year as a janitor — become your enemy? How did THAT come to pass? (And yes, he should be asking the same question about you: how did YOU become HIS enemy? Something is very wrong here.)

  24. alan2102
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    the whole article is really good; this is a snippet:

    Harper’s March 2014 issue

    Nothing Left: The long, slow surrender of American liberals

    By Adolph Reed Jr.

    For nearly all the twentieth century there was a dynamic left in the
    United States grounded in the belief that unrestrained capitalism
    generated unacceptable social costs. That left crested in influence
    between 1935 and 1945, when it anchored a coalition centered in the
    labor movement, most significantly within the Congress of Industrial
    Organizations (CIO). It was a prominent voice in the Democratic Party of
    the era, and at the federal level its high point may have come in 1944,
    when FDR propounded what he called “a second Bill of Rights.” Among
    these rights, Roosevelt proclaimed, were the right to a “useful and
    remunerative job,” “adequate medical care,” and “adequate protection
    from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.”

    [huge snip, to end]

    Confusion and critical paralysis prompted by the racial imagery of
    Obama’s election prevented even sophisticated intellectuals like Žižek
    from concluding that Obama was only another Clintonite Democrat — no
    more, no less. It is how Obama could be sold, even within the left, as a
    hybrid of Martin Luther King Jr. and Neo from The Matrix. The triumph of
    identity politics, condensed around the banal image of the civil rights
    insurgency and its legacy as a unitary “black liberation movement,” is
    what has enabled Obama successfully to present himself as the literal
    embodiment of an otherwise vaporous progressive politics. In this sense
    his election is most fundamentally an expression of the limits of the
    left in the United States — its decline, demoralization, and collapse.

    The crucial tasks for a committed left in the United States now are to
    admit that no politically effective force exists and to begin trying to
    create one. This is a long-term effort, and one that requires grounding
    in a vibrant labor movement. Labor may be weak or in decline, but that
    means aiding in its rebuilding is the most serious task for the American
    left. Pretending some other option exists is worse than useless. There
    are no magical interventions, shortcuts, or technical fixes. We need to
    reject the fantasy that some spark will ignite the People to move as a
    mass. We must create a constituency for a left program — and that cannot
    occur via MSNBC or blog posts or the New York Times. It requires
    painstaking organization and building relationships with people outside
    the Beltway and comfortable leftist groves [outside one’s culture,
    one’s ethnos –alan2102]. Finally, admitting our absolute impotence
    can be politically liberating; acknowledging that as a left we have no
    influence on who gets nominated or elected, or what they do in office,
    should reduce the frenzied self-delusion that rivets attention to the
    quadrennial, biennial, and now seemingly permanent horse races. It
    is long past time for us to begin again to approach leftist critique and
    strategy by determining what our social and governmental priorities
    should be and focusing our attention on building the kind of popular
    movement capable of realizing that vision. Obama and his top aides
    punctuated that fact by making brutally apparent during the 2008
    campaign that no criticism from the left would have a place in this
    regime of Hope and Change. The message could not be clearer.

  25. andy
    Posted June 20, 2014 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    After I bought my house– in the section of Ypsi Twp that’s north of 94, between Normal Park and the golf course– I researched its past. The deed of transfer of my lot from Feb 1930 contains this shocking text:

    “It is a condition running with the land, that… all sale or sales of said lot or lots or parts thereof, are reserved from sale to any colored person or persons.”

    Just for the record…
    The sellers were George M. & Katherine Quinn, who, if I remember correctly, were what we would today call the “developers” of this subdivision.
    The buyers were James & Eloise Bell.

  26. Posted June 21, 2014 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Andy- most of the subdivisions within the City of Ypsilanti are too old to have those kind of racial covenants which became common by the 1910s. However all the major ones from this time and after (College Park, Normal Park, and Ainsworth) contained these rules. 93% of all blacks in the City were living in the First Ward by 1920. These restrictions, while no longer enforced, still echo in the racial lines of the city today which are largely unchanged (within the city, the surrounding area is quite different) since well before the 1920s.

  27. D'Real
    Posted November 29, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Superman (for successfully defeating the Ku Klux Klan!).

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] We in Ypsilanti, for instance, no longer have to live among the likes of Harry Bennet and Tom Monaghan. And, in spite of all the shit we’re dealing with, we no longer have to contend with local cross burnings. […]

  2. By Racist graffiti at EMU on September 20, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    […] is, though, the roots of this run much deeper. The Klan, as we’ve discussed here before, was big in Ypsilanti in the 1920s. And I can still remember back in 2007, when it was brought to my attention that a white […]

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