Re-release of book 35 years later details Dallas’ hidden history

Baylen Bonner, Associate Layout Editor

In the middle of the night in the 1950s, a South Dallas woman staggered through sawdust, clouds of smoke and glass in search of help for her husband who was unable to move his leg after an explosion blew through the front of their house.

Such bombings of the 1940s and 1950s suggest a different narrative than the one often depicted of Dallas’ history being free of civil unrest or racial injustice.

“This has always been a peaceful city,” Jim Schutze, award winning journalist and author of the highly suppressed book “The Accommodation,” said.

“That’s what the city says about itself. That’s what everyone says,” Schutze said.

Schutze, at the time a young journalist working for the Dallas Times Herald, said he was inspired to investigate these claims after hearing a White party guest openly using racial slurs in front of Black waitstaff.

The fallacies woven into Dallas’ history began to unravel the more Schutze spoke to South Dallas residents still alive to tell their stories. Newspapers dated back to the 1940s and 1950s mirrored the atrocities the residents said they had endured. 

“The Accommodation” collected various testimonies and historical evidence to thoroughly shine a light on the prominent politicians, business oligarchs, clergy members and law enforcement personnel who played an active role in terrorizing and oppressing Black families attempting to make a life for themselves in the 1940s and 1950s. 

Many military families returned home from World War II at a time of prosperity. However, adequate housing remained limited for Black families, despite their ability to afford properties in more affluent neighborhoods.

“You don’t find the white lawyer living next door to the white garbage collector, but you did in Black neighborhoods,” Schutze said. 

Black families of all economic classes were forced to live in overpopulated slums and move to worse conditions whenever their presence became a nuisance to property developers looking to expand.

 It was not until property deed restrictions based on race were ruled unconstitutional that Black families were able to buy homes in South Dallas neighborhoods. 

Schutze said, “In the early 50s, South Dallas was all white and a lot of it was Jewish.”  Many of the white, middle-class residents living throughout South Dallas did not respond well to the presence of new neighbors.

It was during this time that highly organized bombing campaigns of homes belonging to Black families began. Despite police officers being ordered to patrol homes owned by Black families every five minutes, no one responsible for the bombings was arrested.

Henry Wade, Dallas County district attorney, commissioned a grand jury of elite business and community leaders to investigate the return of the bombing campaigns in the 1950s. The magnitude and prominence of the members involved resulted in the findings of the investigation quickly being dismissed and concealed from the public.  

Those who were targeted in the bombings never received answers or justice for the crimes committed against them. 

Schutze said his attempt to expose Dallas’ history of civil unrest caused controversy when the book was originally published in 1987. “This private business leadership group got the book killed,” Schutze said of the threats that led to the book being pulled off the press. 

Over the next 35 years, a limited supply of the book, which had been published in New Jersey, circulated around the internet at prices of nearly $1000.

Will Evans, Deep Vellum founder and South Carolina native, was fortunate enough to be passed along a scanned copy of “The Accommodation” from a friend, who urged Evans to publish the book himself. 

Evans’ nonprofit publishing house, Deep Vellum, sets its mission to “make the world a better place through literature.” After reading “The Accommodation,” Evans said the book was a vital story that needed to be shared.

However, at the time the publishing house had focused primarily on translated texts and had not yet published a book at that time. 

“Jim Schutze, to me, was just a legendary columnist,” Evans said. Evans believed Deep Vellum needed to “grow into being a publishing house that could do the book justice” before aiming to republish Schutze’s book.

Since the re-release of “The Accommodation” people have been buying the book by the caseload and more copies have been reordered to fulfill the high demand.

“People aren’t just buying one book at a time. They’re buying boxes of them,” Evans said. He said the book’s massive success is a “testament to how needed this book is.”

Evans said, “I hope that it resonates with the world that this is what a publishing house means to a city and there’s a reason we all came together as a community around the story.”

Two Dallas College El Centro Campus alumni, Mike Rhyner and Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price will be a part of the audiobook version. Rhyner, former radio host of “The Ticket” on KTCK, will be the voice of the novel, while Price will read the Introduction he provided to the republished version of “The Accommodation.”

“Jim is the Clark Kent of our day,” Price said.