A Wall To Keep Out Detroiters? Hamtramck Barrier Isn't Metro Detroit's First Segregation Attempt

07/23/2013 08:06 am ET

While Hamtramck was a historically Polish enclave, the small city within Detroit's borders is now Michigan's most diverse community. But one Hamtramck man wants to enact his own version of the Berlin Wall along the border these two communities share.

Richard Fabiszak, a City Council candidate in Hamtramck, wants to build a 12- to 14-foot wall around his city. Why? To keep out Detroiters. And Fabiszak said that the city should require visitors to show state-issued identification to step foot in Hamtramck city limits, according to CBS Detroit.

Other than a small area of Hamtramck that borders Highland Park, another small city surrounded by Detroit, Hamtramck and Detroit share every single border. Still, despite the city's historic bankruptcy filing last week, which has brought attention to Detroit's long, uneasy relationship with its wealthier, whiter suburbs, most local tweeters reacted with mirth to Fabiszak's wall-building political platform.

Many made parallels to (highly unsuccessful) attempts to wall off fictional cities on television shows like "Parks and Recreation" and "The Walking Dead.

Walling the majority-black city of Detroit off from its neighbors may not be an option today in 2013, but race walls blocked neighbors of different ethnicities from interacting in the Detroit of the past. Built in 1939, the Birwood Street Race Wall was six feet high and a foot across. It was built with one purpose: to keep black residents from building houses in majority-white neighborhoods of Detroit.

detroit race wall

In this 1941 photo supplied by the United States Library of Congress, children are shown standing in front of half mile concrete wall in Detroit. (AP Photo/United States Library of Congress, John Vachon)

And it wasn't just racist housing developers who built the wall -- the scheme was approved by the Federal Housing Administration in order to receive guaranteed loans for the project, according to the Associated Press.

More recently within the city of Detroit, attempts to wall off streets from motorists in posh neighborhoods like Palmer Woods have resulted in charges of elitism. The Detroit Free Press says that officials in Palmer Woods and Detroit's east side border with Grosse Pointe Park have referred to the measures as "traffic control" in order to avoid any association with the city's history of segregation and bitter race relations.

Detroit Race Wall On Birwood Street

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