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Housing

2018 Was Just 1968 All Over Again

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King was assassinated. But the racist housing and policing policies he was fighting are still with us.
Marchers in Memphis commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 2018.
Marchers in Memphis commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 2018.Mark Humphrey/AP

In 1968, Esquire spoke with James Baldwin about possible solutions to racial tensions in the wake of Martin Luther King’s assassination. It was a wide-ranging discussion, but it often gravitated towards the issues of housing and policing—two longstanding challenges that have historically obstructed African Americans’ paths toward economic mobility and empowerment in the United States. Asked about low-income housing development, the acclaimed novelist said he didn’t want any more housing projects built in Harlem.

“I want someone to attack the real-estate lobby because that’s the only way to destroy the ghetto,” said Baldwin. Asked what he thought about building low-income housing in the suburbs, he said, “Well, that depends on the will of the American people, doesn’t it? That’s why they are in the suburbs—to get away from me.”