People Wasn’t Made to Burn
A Story of Race and Housing in Chicago

Socialism 2011

July 01, 2011 -- Chicago, IL
With Joe Allen

In 1947, James Hickman shot and killed the landlord he believed was responsible for a tragic fire that took the lives of four of his children on Chicago’s West Side. Prosecutors hung the death sentence over Hickman’s head, but a vibrant defense campaign exposed how working poverty and racism led to his crime and helped win Hickman’s freedom.

Joe Allen is a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review, a long-standing Chicago activist, and author of a recent book on the Hickman case and the defense campaign, People Wasn't Made to Burn:

With a true-crime writer’s eye for suspense and the historian’s depth of knowledge, Allen unearths the compelling story of a campaign that was willing to stand up to Jim Crow well before the modern civil rights movement had even begun. As deteriorating housing conditions and an accelerating foreclosure crisis combine to form a hauntingly similar set of factors as those that led to the tragic fire that claimed the lives of James Hickman’s children, Allen’s book restores to prominence a previously unknown individual whose story has profound relevance today.

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