Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit's Labor Movement, 1941-1956
by Ryan S. Pettengill
Temple University Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-1-4399-1906-4 | Paper: 978-1-4399-1905-7 | Cloth: 978-1-4399-1904-0
Library of Congress Classification HX92.D6P48 2020


Communists and Community seeks to reframe the traditional chronology of the Communist Party in the United States as a means to better understand the change that occurred in community activism in the mid-twentieth century. Ryan Pettengill argues that Popular Front activism continued to flourish throughout the war years and into the postwar period. In Detroit, where there was a critical mass of heavy industry, Communist Party activists mobilized support for civil rights and affordable housing, brought attention to police brutality, sought protection for the foreign-born, and led a movement for world peace. 

Communists and Community demonstrates that the Communist Party created a social space where activists became effective advocates for the socioeconomic betterment of a multiracial work force. Pettengill uses Detroit as a case study to examine how communist activists and their sympathizers maintained a community to enhance the quality of life for the city’s working class. He investigates the long-term effects of organized labor’s decision to force communists out of the unions and abandon community-based activism. Communists and Community recounts how leftists helped workers, people of color, and other under-represented groups became part of the mainstream citizenry in America.

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