Tom Sugrue: Detroit native 'blows up many stereotypes and misconceptions' on city's past





Tom Sugrue is back.

He's not quite a household name, but Sugrue has developed a cult following in metro Detroit and across the United States after the 1996 publication of his award-winning book, "The Origins of the Urban Crisis," which redefined the story of economic decline in Detroit and other industrial cities since World War II.

A native Detroiter who teaches American history at the University of Pennsylvania, Sugrue drew a crowd Thursday at the Wayne State University Law School when he spoke about his new book, "Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Racial Equality in the North."

The book, scheduled to be published in the fall, deals with the fight for civil rights in Detroit, Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and smaller cities that were far from the highly publicized battlefront in the South and largely have been ignored.

One of Sugrue's main points: While the civil rights movement destroyed the most egregious aspects of Jim Crow in the South, the struggle is far from over in the North.

"After a long battle for racial equality in the United States," he said, "after a long civil rights revolution, it is in the North, not the South, where patterns of racial segregation have remained most resilient."

Noting that the United States' most segregated metropolitan areas -- such as southeast Michigan -- and states with the most segregated school systems -- like Michigan -- are in the North, Sugrue asked: "Why is it the North remains segregated to an extent that would have pleased all but the most intransigent architects of the system of Jim Crow" in the South?
Civil rights victories in the South often are seized upon by white people to validate what Sugrue called their rhetoric of color-blindness -- "I'm not a racist" -- and to excuse their involvement in institutions that perpetuate racial segregation.

As recently as the late 1950s, Sugrue said, black people were not welcome in a number of Detroit restaurants and hotels. Boblo, the Detroit River amusement park white people remember fondly, restricted access by black people for years....



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