Veteran political columnist Jim Schutze's "The Accommodation: The Politics of Race in an American City" uncovers Dallas' dark history of racial oppression.
Pressure by Dallas' white power structure halted the original publication of Schutze's book in 1986. After a limited press run by another publisher, a warehouse fire destroyed most of the book's copies.
After years out of print, the book called "the most dangerous book in Dallas" by D magazine columnist Peter Simek was rediscovered in the last decade, passed around digitally and in samizdat photocopies.
At last, Dallas' Deep Vellum Books republished the book in 2021 under its LaReunion Imprint, which specializes in books on Texas history.
Deep Vellum has reclaimed a classic study of one of the strangest and conflicted American cities, torn between provincial pro-business boosterism and cosmopolitan aspirations.
Haunted by the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, the sprawling north Texas metropolis long claimed a history of racial tolerance.
Schutze, a D magazine columnist and former political columnist for the Dallas Times Herald and Dallas Observer, explodes that myth in his dynamic chronicle.
In the early 1950s, dynamite bombs exploded at the homes of blacks moving into working-class white neighborhoods in South Dallas, repeating a wave of such attacks in the 1940s.
No one was killed, but white leaders grew alarmed, especially when the black homeowners began shooting back at those seeking to drive them out of the white areas.
Worried that the violence would hurt the city's business reputation, white power-brokers organized a "blue ribbon" grand jury to investigate the bombings.
Yet, outside of a couple of arrests of minor criminals, the grand jury took no action. Schutze claims that the grand jury issued no indictments because high-up political and religious leaders would be implicated.
However, the investigation resulted in the "accommodation" of Schutze's title, an agreement between the all-white "Citizens Council" that truly ran the city and black religious and community leaders to dampen racial protests.
After years of resistance to the 1954 Supreme Court agreement outlawing school segregation, the city won praise for a limited plan to integrate schools. The schools were never truly integrated, and Dallas engaged in efforts to destroy black neighborhoods for commercial projects.
Despite blatant housing and economic discrimination, Dallas escaped the racial turmoil of other Southern cities, because of the complicity of black leaders with the pro-business white community, as Schutze documents.
Civil rights organizations like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference ignored Dallas' racial inequities for years. At last, a SCLC organizer from Atlanta led effective protest efforts, leading to court victories and concessions by the power elite.
A key moment was the overturning in federal court of Dallas' strange system of at-large council seats rather than districts, which like Georgia's notorious county unit system diluted black political power.
In a chilling chapter, Schutze castigates the Dallas Morning News for its rabidly racist and anti-Kennedy administration editorials before the assassinated president's fatal visit to the city. Schutze blames the then ultra-conservative newspaper for fostering a sinister atmosphere that he claims led to Kennedy's death.
He apparently believes accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, but his documenting of Dallas' right-wing paranoia leaves room for the conspiracy theories many Americans now accept.
Schutze writes with a distinctive voice, like that of an extended newspaper column blended with historic depth. He skewers white leaders with a sardonic tone, while maintaining a rigorous objectivity.
In one amusing chapter, he satirizes a group of white leaders for seeking to stop "communist" modern art from being displayed a at the Dallas Art Museum.
Dallas department store executive Stanley Marcus is a progressive hero of the book, preventing the removal of a sports art exhibit that somehow was characterized as "communist" by the local Philistines. Marcus is also a lonely voice of racial justice.
Such leaders were rare in the Big D. Their pro-business gospel and the city's amazing growth into a major metropolis covered a sordid history of racial oppression.
Schutze shines a bright light on that long-shrouded past. His illuminating book has also emerged from the darkness.