Why did heavily armed domestic terrorists storm Michigan's statehouse? Why did a group of terrorists, members of Michigan's Wolverine Militia, plot to kidnap and put on trial their governor, Gretchen Whitmer?
On the day that the FBI revealed it had broken up a conspiracy to kidnap governor Whitmer I spoke with a close friend in Grosse Point. I've known Bob for 50 years. He's a retired police officer with a PhD in criminology. He ventured the opinion that Michigan has the worst militia problem in the United States. Bob said militia territory begins where metropolitan Detroit ends and is widespread in the countryside beyond.
So, why Michigan? The story has its roots in the heyday of the Motor City and the creation of a Southern Diaspora of poor relatively uneducated blacks and whites from the Deep South who migrated to Detroit to get jobs in the car plants.
Henry Ford was big on hiring southern blacks until they started to get involved with the unions in the 40s. That's when he switched to southern whites. Ford, FoMoCo, was situated in Dearborn, one of the whitest communities in the region. From 1941 to 1978, Dearborn's mayor was Orville Hubbard, a committed segregationist.
"They can't get in here. We watch it. Every time we hear of a Negro moving—for instance, we had one last year—in a response quicker than to a fire. That's generally known. It's known among our own people and it's known among the Negroes here." He also boasted that one of his tactics to discourage blacks who had just moved into Dearborn was by providing police and fire protection that was "a little too good"—wake-up visits every hour or so through the night in response to trouble calls.
Hubbard's other statements on race include the following:
- He once examined the bullet-riddled body of a black man and called it an open-and-shut case of suicide.
- Hubbard was once quoted as saying, "I'm not a racist, but I just hate those black bastards."
Henry Ford’s massive Willow Run B-24 bomber plant at Ypsilanti, Michigan, hired thousands of southern migrants during World War II, mostly whites. Ford had taken the lead in hiring black workers in the 1910s and 1920s, but changed course in the early 1940s after black workers joined the United Auto Workers union. (Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University )
Reverend J. Frank Norris turned Detroit’s Temple Baptist into a bastion of rightwing fundamentalism. Norris (right) joins Michigan Governor Luren Dickinson, a prohibitionist, at a 1940 campaign rally. Norris commuted between his churches in Detroit and Ft. Worth from 1935 to 1950. (Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)
Detroit detectives show off confiscated robes, masks, and weapons belonging to the Black Legion. Before the Klan-linked organization was broken up in 1936, members had committed a string of murders and assaults in Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. Newspaper reports claimed that most of the members were former southerners. (Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)
George Wallace enjoyed considerable support in the white suburbs and smaller cities of Michigan. Note the “Vote for Wallace” t-shirt at this 1971 anti-busing demonstration in Pontiac Michigan. (Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University)
I suppose Bob is right. The white trash problem has been imbedded in Michigan since the 40s. My friend, perhaps uncharitably, figures they're inbred. He said you only need to go back and look at the photos of the occupation of the Michigan statehouse.
Yeah, I see what he means. Funny what can lurk, completely unnoticed, right below your nose.