Article on Henry Ford’s Anti-Semitism Causes Dissension in Dearborn

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Bill McGraw and Agustin Arbulu weigh in on Mayor O’Reilly’s actions.

By Shari Cohen, Contributing Writer

Automotive pioneer Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism is well-documented. While he was an innovator in automotive manufacturing, he held some centuries-old myths about Jews as the controllers of banks and global finance. In 1919 he bought a weekly newspaper, The Dearborn Independent, which was used to express virulently negative opinions about Jews. Some of its articles were subsequently published in book form and widely distributed in the U.S. and abroad.

To mark the 100th anniversary of Ford’s purchase of the weekly Dearborn Independent, Bill McGraw, the editor of The Dearborn Historian, a quarterly magazine published by Dearborn’s historical museum, decided to focus on this topic. In addition, he was interested in exploring the topic because of the recent sharp increase of anti-Semitism.

McGraw says he mentioned the topic to museum staff at least three times in advance and no one objected. During his research, he found that Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic views are being circulated on white supremacist and neo-Nazi websites. “Henry Ford is a living, breathing person for those on the right wing,” McGraw says.

A retired award-winning Detroit Free Press reporter and founder of the online news aggregator Deadline Detroit, McGraw is well-regarded in Metro Detroit. This was his second issue as magazine editor and it was to be his last.

The cover featured a photo of Henry Ford and a quote from The Dearborn Independent: “The Jew is a race that has no civilization to point to, no aspiring religion, no great achievement in any realm.”

Since the magazine isn’t copyrighted and has only 230 subscribers, McGraw also posted the article on Deadline Detroit to enhance its visibility.

When the printed magazines were delivered and the Mayor of Dearborn — John “Jack” O’Reilly saw them, he was immediately concerned. According to McGraw, Mayor O’Reilly believed the cover was too “harsh.” Initially, McGraw heard that the cover might have to be reprinted, but the mayor gave orders last Monday that the magazine should not be mailed to its subscribers and that McGraw’s contract should be terminated.

The Dearborn Historical Commission held an emergency meeting on Thursday night to express disapproval of the cancellation of this issue of The Dearborn Historian and McGraw’s firing. For McGraw, the editor’s position was a part-time retirement job and he says it’s not a big deal to lose it, but he is upset about the mayor’s suppression of the issue.

Agustin V. Arbulu, executive director of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, was disturbed to hear that the magazine’s distribution was cancelled.

“This is part of his [Ford’s] legacy — he was well-known as an anti-Semite,” says Arbulu. “You have to take the good with the bad. It’s important to talk about these areas of bias — racism, anti-Semitism, anti-LGBT views openly. When we talk about it, we’re educating people. We have to face up to our history. It’s a part of our legacy and that’s very important — otherwise history repeats itself.”

Arbulu says that McGraw may have the basis to file a complaint against the City of Dearborn under the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. “He was discriminated against because of what he wrote about. It was a retaliatory act.”

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