For the First Time, Jim Schutze and John Wiley Price Talk The Accommodation and the Work that Remains| 10 hours ago
Jim Schutze hadn’t re-read his book, 1987’s The Accommodation, in many years. When he finally did, he found the voice of an angry young man in its pages, a recent Detroit expat who couldn’t believe the smug complacency with which his new city ignored its racial strife. Racist policy in Dallas wasn’t even recent history when he got here in 1978. Even then, a landmark desegregation case had been working its way through the courts for the past eight years and would continue for another two decades.
Schutze felt that few wanted to talk about this—or of the violence of the Ku Klux Klan throughout the early 1900s or the bombings of Black homes in the 1950s or the city-sponsored land seizures that paid Black families pennies on the dollar for their land and property. Segregated housing projects soon proliferated; generational wealth was wiped away in a flash.
The Accommodation is about how hard the business class of the time, led by what was a White civic group known as the Dallas Citizens Council, worked to keep all this quiet. The book was meant to offer reality amid a disingenuous mirage of harmony.
Schutze reflected on the book Tuesday on a stage in the ballroom of the Pittman Hotel, which was once the beating heart of the city’s Black middle class. He shared that stage with longtime County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who scooped up the book’s rights after it was muzzled by the same actors that had worked so hard to falsely mold Dallas’ image into a city of racial peace.
Tuesday’s event, organized by the powerful fundraising nonprofit Communities Foundation of Texas, was to commemorate the re-release of The Accommodation by local publishing house Deep Vellum. It is a text that in recent years has been branded “incendiary” and “dangerous,” a work that had its plates literally pulled from the presses ahead of its original publication because, as lore goes, the head of the Citizens Council ordered its publisher not to let it get out the door. It was born again about seven years ago, when a bootleg PDF copy of the long out-of-print book started getting passed around among young Dallasites who wanted to hear this history.
The Accommodation focused on a deal the city’s business class made with Black clergy that effectively created a segregated middle-class Black neighborhood called Hamilton Park, in North Dallas. It was a way to keep the city’s racist violence out of the public eye. Dallas didn’t want to look like Birmingham or Selma.
“There was a story that Dallas had never had any racial upheaval, that everybody loves things the way they were,” Schutze said.Read More