By Keri Guten Cohen, Contributing Writer
Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly halted the distribution of the current issue of The Dearborn Historian, a publication of the Dearborn Historical Museum, which contained a special report, “Henry Ford and the Independent Jew,” coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Henry Ford’s purchase of the Dearborn Independent, a weekly newspaper Ford used for years to spread his virulent anti-Semitism.
The magazine’s cover displayed a photograph of Ford, accompanied by this telling quote from his newspaper: “The Jew is a race that has no civilization to point to, no aspiring religion, no great achievement in any realm.”
Bill McGraw, a seasoned Detroit journalist serving as part-time editor of The Historian, wrote the lengthy story. On Wednesday afternoon, Dearborn Historical Museum Curator Jack Tate terminated McGraw’s contract.
“I continue to be puzzled by the mayor’s actions, which are just bringing more readers to the story he wanted to ban,” McGraw told deadlinedetroit.com, a local online news website McGraw co-founded with Allen Lengel. The post said McGraw has not been involved in the site for several years. “The Dearborn Historical Museum is caught in the middle, and I have nothing but respect for the museum and the people associated with it.”
McGraw told a JN reporter that only 230 copies of The Historian are printed. The Dearborn Historical Commission held an emergency meeting Thursday night and voted unanimously in support of the magazine’s distribution and of McGraw. (One member abstained.)
Attempts to reach Mayor O’Reilly were unsuccessful, however, the public relations department for the city of Dearborn issued this statement Friday:
“For years, Dearborn has supported and participated with interfaith organizations and in regional roundtables with diverse communities, and actively promotes initiatives dedicated to increasing unity and understanding.
So, we want Dearborn to be understood as it is today — a community that works hard at fostering positive relationships within our city and beyond. We expect city-funded publications like The Historian to support these efforts.
It was thought that by presenting information from 100 years ago that included hateful messages — without a compelling reason directly linked to events in Dearborn today — this edition of The Historian could become a distraction from our continuing messages of inclusion and respect.
For this reason, the Mayor asked that the distribution of the hard copies of the current edition of The Historian be halted.”
Referring to a headline in a deadlinedetroit.com post that implied the mayor “fired” McGraw, the statement offered this clarification:
“The Mayor did not ‘fire’ Mr. McGraw. The Dearborn Historical Museum, via the chief curator, contracted with Mr. McGraw to produce the city-funded Historian, one edition at a time of the quarterly publication. Mr. McGraw is not an employee of the City of Dearborn or of the museum. Per the contract, the curator has the right to end the contract for any reason. The chief curator made the decision to terminate the contract.”