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James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.

Grosse Pointe

Michigan

Basic Information

Type of Place
Suburb
Metro Area
Detroit
Politics c. 1860?
Unions, Organized Labor?

Sundown Town Status

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Surely
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Sign?
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?
Probably Not, Although Still Very Few Blacks

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1860
1870
1880
1890
1900
1910
1920
1930 5,173 61
1940 6,179 140
1950
1960 6,631 36
1970
1980 5,901 11
1990 5,681 23
2000 5,670 45
2010
2020

Method of Exclusion

  • Private Bad Behavior
  • Realtors

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black
  • Asian
  • Jewish
  • Other

Comments

The city Grosse Pointe is one of the five Grosse
Pointes that comprise one of the most exclusive
suburban areas in the country.

While Grosse Point appears to have a black
population through the 1980s, these are all live-in
domestic employees. In 1940, for example, only 26 of the 140 black people are male. The decline in black population from 1940 to 1980 represents the decline in live-in domestic workers in America, rather than an increased whitening of Grosse Pointe.

The Grosse Pointe area was well-known for the
point system, in which those deemed undesirable (non-Protestants, Eastern Europeans, etc.) had to amass more points in order to purchase a home. Realtors and the Grosse Pointe Property Owner’s Association would sometimes hire private detectives, who would find answers to various questions, including “Appearances – swarthy, slightly swarthy, or not at all?” and “Accents – pronounced, medium, slight, not at all?” The maximum score for the survey was 100, with most prospective residents needing a score of 50.

However, according to Michigan Attorney General Paul Adams, “a Pole is expected to have five additional points. An Italian, Yugoslav, Greek, Syrian, Lebanese, Armenian, Maltese, Rumanian, or other southern European is required to have 15 additional points. A Jew is required to have 35 additional points and his points are more difficult to achieve because of penalties in a special marking system for Jews. Orientals and Negroes are not considered at all.”

In 1960, William E. Bufalino Jr., a Jewish attorney
from Detroit, sued the city for libel because he was branded “swarthy” and denied a home. The state of Michigan ordered the suburb to abandon the system within 30 days. However, there is some indication that it persisted officially until 1961, and possibly unofficially after that.

“‘The most desirable neighborhood for the raising of children, according to these Grosse Pointe real estate dealers and brokers,’ Rabbi [Leon] Fram said, ‘is one in which the children shall never see a Negro except in the role of a porter or a shoe shine boy, never encounter any human being who believes in a faith other than Christianity, never hear a foreign accent.’ He quoted the minister of a Grosse Pointe church as stating that ‘Jesus Christ could never
qualify for residence in Grosse Pointe.'”
-“Klan Standards Prevail in G.P., Rabbi Charges”,
Detroit News, 14 May 1960

The suburb’s first black family, which moved in in
1966, had to have a white friend buy a home and
then sell it directly to the family. Members of the
Open Housing Committee helped ensure the
family’s safety by staying in their home. Another
black family moved in shortly after to a warmer
welcome. However, within a year, both families had left the Detroit area. In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at a Grosse Pointe high school and was frequently interrupted by hecklers.

In 1983, the tennis team including two African
American girls from Holy Name Catholic School in Birmingham, MI, itself an incredibly white suburb, visited Grosse Pointe to compete in a match. The Grosse Pointe coach informed the Birmingham coach that Grosse Pointe could not play that day. Asked why, the coach said “you have two niggers with you.” After an argument, the Birmingham team was finally allowed to play, which may have been the first time blacks were allowed to use the Grosse
Pointe Tennis Club.

Jan. 2013 email from a longtime resident: “I currently have lived here since November 2011 with my wife. During this time we have been greeted warmly by the Caucasian neighbors. There is one inter-racial couple on the block, they are quite congenial.
While using the City’s Lake Front Park on Lake St. Clair, the boat owners at the marina and I get along well in that we are boaters and fishermen who talk about fishing/boating and little else at least while I’m there.
During the presidential campaign and election there were many Romney lawn-signs and some Obama lawn-signs. On the 1st evening that mine was out, it was stolen but was quickly replaced the following day with a new one (it was never removed until I did the day after President Obama’s re-election). Another Caucasian neighbor was so ecstatic about the reelection that he kept his sign out for two more weeks, he really was happy and did not care about his neighbors feelings for those who loss supporting Romney!
In addition the local Grosse Pointe newspaper has never had a headline that reads OBAMA Is RE-ELECTED, only that Roney received 17,300 votes to 12,500 Obama votes”