Moving the color line

I just finished reading Not In My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped A Great American City by Antero Pietila. I had met the author and had lunch with him at the Roundtable of Baltimore Historians at the Maryland Historical Society in May. What a fine book he wrote.  I had intended to do a quick read but ended up doing a SLOW one—highlighting the book extensively and identifying in a Baltimore mapbook every street location and neighborhood Pietila discusses. I found it to be a highly informative case study, one that has been replicated in cities across America, about how whites, aided by politicians, bankers, realtors, zoning officials, the FHA, churches, and other groups, fought the encroachment of African-Americans into their neighborhoods, and the methods blockbusters used to drive whites out and provide housing and financing for blacks, all the while filling their own coffers. But Not In My Neighborhood is not a textbook. Pietila not only tracks the movement of minorities through urban neighborhoods over generations, he details the histories of the people involved and tells the most interesting stories about them. After all, Pietila spent thirty-five years with the Baltimore Sun, covering the city’s neighborhoods, politics, and government, so he knows where the bones are buried, and he tells all. This book is as much fun as fiction.

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