Books

Jim Schutze's Seminal Book The Accommodation Is Set for Republishing

Dallas writer Jim Schutze is still stirring up shit even in retirement.
Dallas writer Jim Schutze is still stirring up shit even in retirement. Jim Schutze
Some considered it the most dangerous book in Dallas, a moniker coined by D Magazine years after it was published. The Accommodation: the Politics of Race in an American City, traces race relations and politics in Dallas from slavery to the early '80s.

It argues slavery was crueler in North Texas than the Old South and delves into the results of the civil rights movement missing Dallas when Black clergy turned away Martin Luther King Jr. It also focuses on white Dallas residents bombing Black World War II veterans' homes to force them out of predominately white neighborhoods.

The book is important for modern readers for several reasons, according to a March 1987 D Magazine article: “to better understand why some Blacks continue to distrust the police … to fathom why the Black community produces political leaders who seem to aim more at confrontation than consensus, and to help us comprehend the legacy of frustration and fury that is powerfully manifest in the statistics of Black poverty and crime.”

The book experienced a series of misfortunes before and after publication, from the original publisher killing the book after allegedly succumbing to pressure from the Dallas Citizens Council, to a warehouse fire that destroyed 2,000 of the limited 5,000 printed copies.


Considering who wrote the book, it's easy to understand why the council might have tried to bury it. For more than 40 years, since his arrival at the Dallas Times Herald from the Detroit Free Press in the late '70s, former Observer columnist Jim Schutze has wielded a stake against the council. He wielded several more at the Dallas bureau of the Houston Chronicle, at the Dallas Observer and D Magazine.

Schutze is retired now but still spins words on Facebook when Mark Zuckerberg isn't putting him in Facebook jail for violating what Zuckerberg feels is ethical.

Today, Schutze's The Accommodation has become the Holy Grail for rare book collectors in North Texas. The hardcover first edition sells for $1,204.55 on Amazon.

Thankfully, Gen X, Y, and Z generations took it upon themselves to turn it into a bootleg PDF and share it for free online. They also started a Twitter handle, @accommodation87, for the book in June 2020, and began sharing it — word for word — in tweets on Twitter.

Now, Deep Vellum, a publishing house in Deep Ellum, is planning to rerelease Schutze's book in September. Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, a former friend of Schutze's, wrote the forward.

“Deep Vellum hopes that the rerelease will open the dialogue around race and Dallas' place in the national conversation,” the publishing company said in a July 21 press release. “Most importantly, Deep Vellum recognizes that this wider release is merely a facet of the dialogue around race in Dallas and in America at large. The publisher is looking forward to resurrecting a book that has been out of print for 35 years.”

“I think my mother was the only white person who read it." - journalist Jim Schutze

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The new release will probably do little to lower the first edition hardcover price on Amazon, but it will make it more affordable — $30 for hardcover — for North Texans who are interested in Dallas' racist history.

“I have a friend who is in the rare book collection,” Schutze says. “I told him my book is an instant rare, and he said, 'It's not a good thing and not the right kind of rare book.”

But Schutze was the right kind of storyteller to tackle the subject in the early '80s. He was the only white reporter willing to ask the questions and sniff out the answers. He also happened to be in the right place at the right time.

When he arrived in the late '70s, Dallas was much like it is today, a “Bible Belt Mecca at high fever in the midst of an oil and real estate boom,” Schutze writes in Dunking Booth, a 2013 book — “not a memoir” — about his life as a journalist. “The whole city was seized in a frenzy of greed as if caves of cash had been uncovered and everyone knew where they were but me.”

Downtown Dallas reminded him of Manhattan with cars filling the streets, honking all damn day, while people, pitched forward and red in the face, were walking as if they were “scurrying with wheelbarrows.” It wasn't what he was expecting. All he knew about Dallas was what nearly everyone in Detroit was telling him when he told them that he was moving, “Oh, you're going to the city that killed Kennedy?”

A newspaper editor at the Times-Herald planted the first seed for The Accommodation when he gave Schutze the rundown of the city's power structure. “The real power in the city lay in a secretive cabal called the Dallas Citizens Council,” Schutze writes in Dunking Booth. “All Southern cities had been dominated by such groups until the 1960s, but in most of those cities the Civil Rights Movement had blown the old citizens councils out of the water and forced power back into the public area.”

Schutze says that six years later, in 1984, he came to the realization that “Dallas was weird about race.”

“I talked to people from other parts of Texas, and they agreed,” he says. “A lot of people coming around agreed.”

His conversations about Dallas and race led him to an editor at Taylor Publishing, mostly known for printing yearbooks, in downtown Dallas. The editor was a young bright guy, hired from New York, and a former assistant to Jackie Kennedy, who had become a book editor after her husband's assassination in Dallas. He was looking to expand Taylor's publishing portfolio and seemed to think Schutze was the writer to help him do it.

“I was the first and the last,” Schutze says.

The Accommodation wasn't an idea that Schutze pitched to the editor. It was an idea that the editor shared with him, one that was told by Peter Johnson, a former bodyguard for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a representative of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Dallas. He had tried writing a story about why the Civil Rights Movement never happened in Dallas, why Black clergy in Dallas spurned him, and why the city, which was wielding imminent domain, was valuing Black landowners' properties at half of what they were valuing white landowners' properties. He'd come to Dallas to show a film about King to raise money for King's family and participated in a hunger strike on the front steps of City Hall, which was something Schutze says Dallas city leaders had never seen before, but as Schutze tells it, the editor decided Johnson “wasn't an author” and asked Schutze to write it.

Schutze wasn't a ghostwriter, either. He made it clear to Johnson, who agreed and told him, according to Schutze's recollections, “All I care about is that this story is told.”

“Peter knew that this shit about paying half to Black people had gone to the Supreme Court and they said, 'No, you can't do that. … cannot have a second class market value called Black,'” Schutze says. “He knew that the shit the city was doing was illegal and unconstitutional.”

Over the next two years, Schutze lived at the public library and breathed the story when he was awake. He was uncovering all kinds of interesting historical facts about Dallas, its love for the Klu Klux Klan and the local Black community's response to it. “They weren't rebels,” he says. “They didn't want Black lawyers from New York stirring up trouble. They were scared shitless. Their answer, 'All you hippies and troublemakers stir shit up, and you leave and we got the fucking KKK looking at us.'”

Schutze couldn't help but discuss the book. He told a colleague at the Times-Herald who, in turn, “goes straight to the retired CEO of the Dallas Citizens Council who goes to Taylor Publishing and says, 'The person writing your book for you is a communist and if you publish this book, your ass is grass.' Bobby [the editor] calls me up and says, 'Who did you talk to about the fucking book?'”

They had no choice, Schutze says, but to hustle the unfinished manuscript to the printer. “But then they changed their mind and didn't think it was a good book.”

A New York Times story about the book being suppressed by the publisher spurred the interest of a publisher in New Jersey who agreed to publish 5,000 copies of a 100-page book. The warehouse fire in Dallas followed, turning 2,000 of them into ash.

“I think my mother was the only white person who read it,” Schutze says. “It was read by a lot of Black people in southern Dallas and handed around. It took a long time to get to the library ... and [they] deliberately miscataloged it. If you look under Black history, it wouldn't be there.”

Thirty-five years later, Deep Vellum publishing in Deep Ellum wants to make sure The Accommodation is remembered under Black history. Schutze called it a “nonprofit venture. Will Evans, the founder of Deep Vellum, told Spectrum News on Thursday, “It's a vital work of Dallas history that opens the door to larger conversations about the stories we need to tell about the city we call home.”

But Schutze didn't express interest in participating in the new edition of the book. He had sold the rights in the '90s to Commissioner Price, who gave Evans his blessings to republish the book and wrote an updated prologue.

“I just said, 'Cool. Great. Do it. Don't have an objection to it,'” Schutze says. “... He said it would serve the public good to republish. I said it was great. It was my same feeling with the PDF. The book had a chance to make some money. Anybody still interested should be able to read it for free.”
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Christian McPhate is an award-winning journalist who specializes in investigative reporting. He covers crime, the environment, business, government and social justice. His work has appeared in several publications, including the Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the Miami Herald, San Antonio Express News and The Washington Times.