Sunday, April 27, 2008

Flint's block-busting history

William A. Johnson, Jr., the former mayor of Rochester, New York, remembers his days in Flint:

"After graduation, I took a job as a political science professor at Mott Community College. Flint was my first venture out of the South. I arrived in 1967, just after the Detroit riots. My wife and I got an apartment in the city east of Saginaw Street.

"In 1968, Flint became the first city in the country to have an open housing ordinance. The law prohibited discrimination in housing. It was a tough struggle to get it passed. City Council at first voted it down, the mayor threatened to resign, Martin Luther King was assassinated, the political winds shifted, and fi-
nally it passed.

"This was an historic moment for the Civil Rights movement in the United States, and I was immensely proud of Flint.

"Then I began to see the for-sale signs popping up in the white neighborhoods west of Saginaw. It looked like a political campaign with all the lawn signs.

"What was happening was block busting at its most furious. Homes in white neighborhoods were being re-sold to Blacks at inflated prices — prices they really couldn't afford — which lead to massive foreclosures and vacancies. The whites, of course, fled to the suburbs. The open housing ordinance, something intended to do good, boomeranged and ate Flint like a cancer."

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Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at