91.7 Ann Arbor/Detroit 104.1 Grand Rapids 91.3 Port Huron 89.7 Lansing 91.1 Flint
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Does Southeast Michigan have its own version of the Confederate flag?

South Carolina legislature is debating whether to remove the Confederate flag outside the state capitol.
flickr user Ken Lund

Ever since the killing of nine church-goers at a historic black church in Charleston, the demands to remove the Confederate flag from its position in front of South Carolina’s state capitol have only gotten louder.

Bill McGraw believes Southeast Michigan has its own version of the Confederate flag: the 10-foot-high statue of long-time Dearborn mayor Orville Hubbard. McGraw's recent opinion piece in Deadline Detroit looks at Hubbard’s legacy.

“Hubbard did not lead a rebellion to preserve slavery,” McGraw says,” but he is the personification of segregation in metro Detroit.”

Hubbard was mayor of Dearborn from 1942 to 1978, and McGraw says that as mayor he did a lot of great things for the town.

“Dearborn had services and prompt snow removal and things like that that other suburbs both here and in other states could only dream of,” McGraw says.

According to McGraw, even Detroit’s first black mayor Coleman Young praised Hubbard for his work as mayor.

But Hubbard was also very outspoken about his views on race, and particularly his favorable attitude toward segregation.

The New York Times published a story on Hubbard in 1969 that McGraw tells us is indicative of the mayor’s attitude.

“That interview is very harsh to read these days because he uses really every racial slur in the book, and he’s very up front about it,” he says.

According to McGraw, Dearborn’s current mayor John O’Reilly has stated that the city plans on moving the statue, which was raised by private funds but stands on city property.

But McGraw isn’t calling for the statue’s outright removal.

He tells us that the current commemorative signage praises Hubbard as a mayor, but misses a large part of the picture by not explaining who he was as a person.

McGraw says that by adding a concise description of where Hubbard was in the context of racial equality and civil rights issues, it could become an educational opportunity.

“I don’t think it should be scrubbed [from history], I think it should be redone and perhaps made into more of an educational feature,” he says.

McGraw explains that he isn’t equating Hubbard with the Confederate flag in his article, but that, “given racial equality is still a pressing problem for metro Detroit, I think Hubbard’s legacy looms large in that it’s not dealt with honestly.”

Bill McGraw’s piece, Our Version Of The Confederate Flag Is 10 Feet Tall And Waving In Dearborn, can be found in Deadline Detroit.

Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 9 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
Related Content