HOLC Protest in Detroit, 1939

According to Richard Thomas in Life for Us Is What We Make It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915-1945(see below for full citation), Snow Grigsby established the Detroit Civic Rights Committee (CRC) in 1933, and was an aggressive campaigner for the civil rights of African-Americans in Detroit. Grigsby formed the CRC in response to dissatisfaction with the local Detroit NAACP office.(235-236)

Although much of Grigsby's leadership was devoted to employment and economic equality, he also attacked housing discrimination in a case in which he was personally involved. As described in the following passage from Thomas, the situation involved the actions of the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC), a New Deal agency that has been accused of including racist criteria in determining the recipients of its loans.

"[Snow] Grigsby had been trying to purchase some property through the federal Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) and was turned down. The HOLC policy of grading residential areas by occupation, class, and ethnicity, using such terms as 'infiltration' and encroachment' to describe the percentage of such populations in a given residential area, hindered blacks from purchasing property in a given area. For example, if HOLC described an area as 'alien and negro encorachment [sic] from the East and South,' or as an area that 'will slowly decline,' or as an area in which 'the mixed population (Negroes and Polish) precludes the area from a better rating,' then blacks would most probably be turned down for a loan in the only areas in which they were allowed to purchase property or owned homes. Evidently some blacks in Detroit and elsewhere felt that the HOLC discriminated against them; so after Grigsby's rejection, a group of black organizations lodged a protest in Washington. This protest, according to some blacks, led to the forced resignation of Grigsby [from the U.S. Postal Service]. . . .(243) [51]

[51]Detroit Tribune, September 23, 1939; October 14, 1939; "Summary of Economic, Real Estate and Mortgage Survey Area Descriptions of Greater Detroit, Michigan." Home Owners Loan Corporation City Survey, file 1935-40, areas C-50 and D-57, box 0018, National Archives.

Source: Richard W. Thomas, Life for Us Is What We Make It: Building Black Community in Detroit, 1915-1945 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992).


This WWW page was created by Wendy Plotkin (wendy.plotkin@asu.edu) in 1998 and updated on 1 September 2003.