Once the manufacturing powerhouse of the nation, Detroit has become emblematic of failing cities everywhere—the paradigmatic city of ruins—and the epicenter of an explosive growth in images of urban decay. In Beautiful Terrible Ruins, art historian Dora Apel explores a wide array of these images, ranging from photography, advertising, and television, to documentaries, video games, and zombie and disaster films.
Apel shows how Detroit has become pivotal to an expanding network of ruin imagery, imagery ultimately driven by a pervasive and growing cultural pessimism, a loss of faith in progress, and a deepening fear that worse times are coming. The images of Detroit’s decay speak to the overarching anxieties of our era: increasing poverty, declining wages and social services, inadequate health care, unemployment, homelessness, and ecological disaster—in short, the failure of capitalism. Apel reveals how, through the aesthetic distancing of representation, the haunted beauty and fascination of ruin imagery, embodied by Detroit’s abandoned downtown skyscrapers, empty urban spaces, decaying factories, and derelict neighborhoods help us to cope with our fears. But Apel warns that these images, while pleasurable, have little explanatory power, lulling us into seeing Detroit’s deterioration as either inevitable or the city’s own fault, and absolving the real agents of decline—corporate disinvestment and globalization. Beautiful Terrible Ruins helps us understand the ways that the pleasure and the horror of urban decay hold us in thrall.
Is citizenship simply a legal status or does it describe a sense of belonging to a national community? For Arab Americans, these questions took on new urgency after 9/11, as the cultural prejudices that have often marginalized their community came to a head. Citizenship and Crisis reveals that, despite an ever-shifting definition of citizenship and the ease with which it can be questioned in times of national crisis, the Arab communities of metropolitan Detroit continue to thrive. A groundbreaking study of social life, religious practice, cultural values, and political views among Detroit Arabs after 9/11, Citizenship and Crisis argues that contemporary Arab American citizenship and identity have been shaped by the chronic tension between social inclusion and exclusion that has been central to this population's experience in America. According to the landmark Detroit Arab American Study, which surveyed more than 1,000 Arab Americans and is the focus of this book, Arabs express pride in being American at rates higher than the general population. In nine wide-ranging essays, the authors of Citizenship and Crisis argue that the 9/11 backlash did not substantially transform the Arab community in Detroit, nor did it alter the identities that prevail there. The city's Arabs are now receiving more mainstream institutional, educational, and political support than ever before, but they remain a constituency defined as essentially foreign. The authors explore the role of religion in cultural integration and identity formation, showing that Arab Muslims feel more alienated from the mainstream than Arab Christians do. Arab Americans adhere more strongly to traditional values than do other Detroit residents, regardless of religion. Active participants in the religious and cultural life of the Arab American community attain higher levels of education and income, yet assimilation to the American mainstream remains important for achieving enduring social and political gains. The contradictions and dangers of being Arab and American are keenly felt in Detroit, but even when Arab Americans oppose U.S. policies, they express more confidence in U.S. institutions than do non-Arabs in the general population. The Arabs of greater Detroit, whether native-born, naturalized, or permanent residents, are part of a political and historical landscape that limits how, when, and to what extent they can call themselves American. When analyzed against this complex backdrop, the results of The Detroit Arab American Study demonstrate that the pervasive notion in American society that Arabs are not like "us" is simply inaccurate. Citizenship and Crisis makes a rigorous and impassioned argument for putting to rest this exhausted cultural and political stereotype.
Copts in Michigan
Eliot Dickinson Michigan State University Press, 2008 Library of Congress F575.E38D53 2008 | Dewey Decimal 977.4008828172
The Copts, or Egyptian Christians, are a relatively small and tight-knit ethno-religious group, numbering perhaps three thousand people and living mostly in the Detroit metropolitan area. Since they began immigrating to Michigan in the mid-1960s, their community has grown exponentially.
Granted exceptional access to the Coptic community, Eliot Dickinson provides the first in- depth profile of this unique and remarkably successful immigrant group. Drawing on personal interviews to infuse the book with warmth and depth. Copts in Michigan offers readers a compelling view into this vibrant community.
Reynolds Farley Russell Sage Foundation, 2000 Library of Congress HC108.D6F37 2000 | Dewey Decimal 306.0977434
Unskilled workers once flocked to Detroit, attracted by manufacturing jobs paying union wages, but the passing of Detroit's manufacturing heyday has left many of those workers stranded. Manufacturing continues to employ high-skilled workers, and new work can be found in suburban service jobs, but the urban plants that used to employ legions of unskilled men are a thing of the past. The authors explain why white auto workers adjusted to these new conditions more easily than blacks. Taking advantage of better access to education and suburban home loans, white men migrated into skilled jobs on the city's outskirts, while blacks faced the twin barriers of higher skill demands and hostile suburban neighborhoods. Some blacks have prospered despite this racial divide: a black elite has emerged, and the shift in the city toward municipal and service jobs has allowed black women to approach parity of earnings with white women. But Detroit remains polarized racially, economically, and geographically to a degree seen in few other American cities. A Volume in the Multi-City Study of Urban Inequality
Over the past 25 years, award-winning ethnographer and photographer Camilo José Vergara has traveled annually to Detroit to document not only the city’s precipitous decline but also how its residents have survived. From the 1970s through the 1990s, changes in Detroit were almost all for the worse, as the fabric of the city was erased through neglect and abandonment. But over the last decade, Detroit has seen the beginnings of a positive transformation, and the photography in Detroit Is No Dry Bones provides unique documentation of the revival and its urbanistic possibilities. Beyond the fate of the city’s buildings themselves, Vergara’s camera has consistently sought to capture the distinct culture of this largely African American city. The photographs in this book, for example, are organized in part around the way people have re-used and re-purposed structures from the past. Vergara is unique in his documentation of local churches that have re-occupied old bank buildings and other impressive structures from the past and turned them into something unexpectedly powerful architecturally as well as spiritually.
Detroit: Race and Uneven Development
Joe T. Darden, Richard Child Hill, June Thomas and Richard Thomas Temple University Press, 1990 Library of Congress F574.D49N4335 1987 | Dewey Decimal 305.800977434
Hub of the American auto industry and site of the celebrated Riverfront Renaissance, Detroit is also a city of extraordinary poverty, unemployment, and racial segregation. This duality in one of the mightiest industrial metropolises of twentieth-century North America is the focus of this study. Viewing the Motor City in light of sociology, geography, history, and planning, the authors examine the genesis of modern Detroit. They argue that the current situation of metropolitan Detroit—economic decentralization, chronic racial and class segregation, regional political fragmentation—is a logical result of trends that have gradually escalated throughout the post-World War II era. Examining its recent redevelopment policies and the ensuing political conflicts, Darden, Hill, Thomas, and Thomas, discuss where Detroit has been and where it is going.
In the series Comparative American Cities, edited by Joe T. Darden.
Episodes of racial conflict in Detroit form just one facet of the city’s storied and legendary history, and they have sometimes overshadowed the less widely known but equally important occurrence of interracial cooperation in seeking solutions to the city’s problems. The conflicts also present many opportunities to analyze, learn from, and interrogate the past in order to help lay the groundwork for a stronger, more equitable future. This astute and prudent history poses a number of critical questions: Why and where have race riots occurred in Detroit? How has the racial climate changed or remained the same since the riots? What efforts have occurred since the riots to reduce racial inequality and conflicts, and to build bridges across racial divides? Unique among books on the subject, Detroit pays special attention to post-1967 social and political developments in the city, and expands upon the much-explored black-white dynamic to address the influx of more recent populations to Detroit: Middle Eastern Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. Crucially, the book explores the role of place of residence, spatial mobility, and spatial inequality as key factors in determining access to opportunities such as housing, education, employment, and other amenities, both in the suburbs and in the city.
Detroit's Cold War locates the roots of American conservatism in a city that was a nexus of labor and industry in postwar America. Drawing on meticulous archival research focusing on Detroit, Colleen Doody shows how conflict over business values and opposition to labor, anticommunism, racial animosity, and religion led to the development of a conservative ethos in the aftermath of World War II.
Using Detroit--with its large population of African-American and Catholic immigrant workers, strong union presence, and starkly segregated urban landscape--as a case study, Doody articulates a nuanced understanding of anticommunism during the Red Scare. Looking beyond national politics, she focuses on key debates occurring at the local level among a wide variety of common citizens. In examining this city's social and political fabric, Doody illustrates that domestic anticommunism was a cohesive, multifaceted ideology that arose less from Soviet ideological incursion than from tensions within the American public.
It is a bedrock American belief: the 1950s were a golden age of prosperity for autoworkers. Flush with high wages and enjoying the benefits of generous union contracts, these workers became the backbone of a thriving blue-collar middle class. It is also a myth. Daniel J. Clark began by interviewing dozens of former autoworkers in the Detroit area and found a different story--one of economic insecurity caused by frequent layoffs, unrealized contract provisions, and indispensable second jobs. Disruption in Detroit is a vivid portrait of workers and an industry that experienced anything but stable prosperity. As Clark reveals, the myths--whether of rising incomes or hard-nosed union bargaining success--came later. In the 1950s, ordinary autoworkers, union leaders, and auto company executives recognized that although jobs in their industry paid high wages, they were far from steady and often impossible to find.
“The dynamics of Black Theology were at the center of the ‘Long New Negro Renaissance,’ triggered by mass migrations to industrial hubs like Detroit. Finally, this crucial subject has found its match in the brilliant scholarship of Angela Dillard. No one has done a better job of tracing those religious roots through the civil rights–black power era than Professor Dillard.”
—Komozi Woodard, Professor of History, Public Policy & Africana Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and author of A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics
“Angela Dillard recovers the long-submerged links between the black religious and political lefts in postwar Detroit. . . . Faith in the City is an essential contribution to the growing literature on the struggle for racial equality in the North.”
—Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania, author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit
Spanning more than three decades and organized around the biographies of Reverends Charles A. Hill and Albert B. Cleage Jr., Faith in the City is a major new exploration of how the worlds of politics and faith merged for many of Detroit’s African Americans—a convergence that provided the community with a powerful new voice and identity. While other religions have mixed politics and creed, Faith in the City shows how this fusion was and continues to be particularly vital to African American clergy and the Black freedom struggle.
Activists in cities such as Detroit sustained a record of progressive politics over the course of three decades. Angela Dillard reveals this generational link and describes what the activism of the 1960s owed to that of the 1930s. The labor movement, for example, provided Detroit’s Black activists, both inside and outside the unions, with organizational power and experience virtually unmatched by any other African American urban community.
Angela D. Dillard is Associate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. She specializes in American and African American intellectual history, religious studies, critical race theory, and the history of political ideologies and social movements in the United States.
Detroit’s industrial health has long been crucial to the American economy. Today’s troubles notwithstanding, Detroit has experienced multiple periods of prosperity, particularly in the second half of the eighteenth century, when the city was the center of the thriving fur trade. Its proximity to the West as well as its access to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River positioned this new metropolis at the intersection of the fur-rich frontier and the Atlantic trade routes.
In Frontier Seaport, Catherine Cangany details this seldom-discussed chapter of Detroit’s history. She argues that by the time of the American Revolution, Detroit functioned much like a coastal town as a result of the prosperous fur trade, serving as a critical link in a commercial chain that stretched all the way to Russia and China—thus opening Detroit’s shores for eastern merchants and other transplants. This influx of newcomers brought its own transatlantic networks and fed residents’ desires for popular culture and manufactured merchandise. Detroit began to be both a frontier town and seaport city—a mixed identity, Cangany argues, that hindered it from becoming a thoroughly “American” metropolis.
"Grace Lee Boggs has made a fundamental difference in keeping alive the traditions of the struggles for freedom and democracy." Cornel West
"More than a deeply moving memoir, this is a book of revelation. Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American, middle class, highly educated, discovers through her encounters with remarkable rebels, blue collars as well as philosophers, where the body is buried: who is doing what to whom in our society. It is an adventure that is truly liberating." Studs Terkel
"It seems to me that the life of Grace Lee Boggs has been an exercise of will. Through sheer will, without waiting for social conditions to come around and without waiting to explore her identity, she turned her back on who she was and barged into new territories. She was a woman who barged into men's territory; she was a Chinese who barged into black territory; she was an intellectual who barged into workers territory." from a letter from Louis Tsen
"Throught these pages walk causes, gatherings, confrontations, movements, and the men and women who made them: workers, and students, and committees of the People; Christians, Black Muslims, Black Panthers, Labor Unions; C.L.R. James. Rev. Cleage, Rev. Cleveland, Coleman Young, Malcolm and Martin; artists, musicians, poets, actors, strikers, and seekers of revolution." from the foreword by Ossie Davis
Living for Change is a sweeping account of the life of an untraditional radical from the end of the thirties, through the cold war, the civil rights era, and the rise of Black Power, the Nation of Islam, and the Black Panthers to the present efforts to rebuild our crumbling urban communities. This fascinating autobiography traces the story of a woman who transcended class and racial boundaries to pursue her passionate belief in a better society.
Grace Lee Boggs was raised in New York City during a time when her father was not allowed to buy land for their home because he was Chinese. Educated at Barnard and Bryn Mawr, Boggs was in her twenties when radical politics beckoned, and she was inspired to become a revolutionary focusing on the black community.
During her early years as an activist in New York, Boggs began a twenty-year friendship and collaboration with C. L. R. James, the brilliant and influential West Indian Marxist to whom she devotes a revelatory chapter of this book. In 1953, she moved to Detroit where, she writes, "radical history had been made and could be made again." It was also the home of James Boggs, an African American auto worker (and later author and revolutionary theoretician) who would become one of the movement's freshest and most persuasive voices, as well as Grace's husband. Beginning with their work together on the newsletter Correspondence, Grace and James formed the core of a network that over the years would include Malcolm X, Lyman Paine, Ping Ferry, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Kwame Nkrumah, Stokely Carmichael, and inner-city youth.
Rich in the personalities and anecdotes of twentieth-century progressive activism, Living for Change is an involving and inspiring look at a remarkable woman who continues to dedicate her life to social justice.
Grace Lee Boggs is a first-generation Chinese American who has been a speaker, writer, and movement activist in the African American community for fifty-five years.
Religion has played a protean role in the lives of America's workers. In this innovative volume, Matthew Pehl focuses on Detroit to examine the religious consciousness constructed by the city's working-class Catholics, African American Protestants, and southern-born white evangelicals and Pentecostals between 1910 and 1969. Pehl embarks on an integrative view of working-class faith that ranges across boundaries of class, race, denomination, and time. As he shows, workers in the 1910s and 1920s practiced beliefs characterized by emotional expressiveness, alliance with supernatural forces, and incorporation of mass culture's secular diversions into the sacred. That gave way to the more pragmatic class-conscious religion cultures of the New Deal era and, from the late Thirties on, a quilt of secular working-class cultures that coexisted in competitive, though creative, tension. Finally, Pehl shows how the ideology of race eclipsed class in the 1950s and 1960s, and in so doing replaced the class-conscious with the race-conscious in religious cultures throughout the city.
In this provocative and accessible urban history, Lila Corwin Berman considers the role that Detroit’s Jews played in the city’s well-known narrative of migration and decline. Taking its cue from social critics and historians who have long looked toward Detroit to understand twentieth-century urban transformations, Metropolitan Jews tells the story of Jews leaving the city while retaining a deep connection to it. Berman argues convincingly that though most Jews moved to the suburbs, urban abandonment, disinvestment, and an embrace of conservatism did not invariably accompany their moves. Instead, the Jewish postwar migration was marked by an enduring commitment to a newly fashioned urbanism with a vision of self, community, and society that persisted well beyond city limits.
Complex and subtle, Metropolitan Jews pushes urban scholarship beyond the tenacious black/white, urban/suburban dichotomy. It demands a more nuanced understanding of the process and politics of suburbanization and will reframe how we think about the American urban experiment and modern Jewish history.
In Now Is the Time! Todd C. Shaw delves into the political strategies of post–Civil Rights Movement African American activists in Detroit, Michigan, to discover the conditions for effective social activism. Analyzing a wide range of grassroots community-housing initiatives intended to revitalize Detroit’s failing urban center and aid its impoverished population, he investigates why certain collective actions have far-reaching effects while others fail to yield positive results. What emerges is EBAM (Effective Black Activism Model), Shaw’s detailed political model that illuminates crucial elements of successful grassroots activism, such as strong alliances, strategic advantages, and adaptive techniques.
Shaw uses the tools of social movement analysis, including the quantitative analysis of budgets, electoral data, and housing statistics, as well as historical research and personal interviews, to better understand the dilemmas, innovations, and dynamics of grassroots activism. He begins with a history of discriminatory housing practices and racial divisions that deeply affected Detroit following the Second World War and set the stage for the election of the city’s first black mayor, Coleman Young. By emphasizing downtown redevelopment, Mayor Young’s administration often collided with low-income housing advocates. Only through grassroots activism were those advocates able to delay or derail governmental efforts to demolish low-income housing in order to make way for more upscale development. Shaw then looks at present-day public housing activism, assessing the mixed success of the nationally sponsored HOPE VI project aimed at fostering home ownership in low-income areas. Descriptive and prescriptive, Now Is the Time! traces the complicated legacy of community activism to illuminate what is required for grassroots activists to be effective in demanding public accountability to poor and marginalized citizens.
Jim Daniels University of Wisconsin Press, 1985 Library of Congress PS3554.A5635P5 1985 | Dewey Decimal 811.54
Jim Daniels, in his first book of poems, draws upon his experiences in living and working in his native Detroit to present a start, realistic picture of urban, blue-collar life. Daniels, his brothers, his father, and his grandfather have all worked in the auto industry, and that background seeps into nearly all these poems.
The first of the book’s three sections sketches out this background, then moves into a neighborhood full of people whose lives are so linked to the ups and downs of the auto industry that they have to struggle to find their own lives; in "Still Lives in Detroit, #2," Daniels writes, "There’s a man in this picture. / No one can find him." The second section contains the "Digger" poems, a series on the lives of a Detroit auto worker and his family which tries to capture the effects of the work on life outside the factory. Here, we listen to Digger think, dream, wander on psychological journeys while he moves through his routines, shoveling the snow, mowing the lawn, and so forth. In section three, the poems move into the workplace, whether that be a liquor store, a hamburger joint, or a factory.
These poems, sometimes dark, sometimes humorous, concentrate on the efforts of workers to rise above the often depressing work of blue-collar or minimum-wage jobs, to salvage some pride and dignity. The poems in this book try to give a voice to those who are often shut out of poetry. They are important. These lives are important, and the poems, more than anything, say that.
Kesho Scott University of Iowa Press, 1999 Library of Congress PS3569.C645T54 1999 | Dewey Decimal 813.0108928709
This expanded edition of Tight Spaces includes six new essays that explore the fulfilling spaces inhabited by Kesho Scott, Cherry Muhanji, and Egyirba High since their book was originally published in 1987. Tight Spaces won the American Book Award in 1988.
Trigger Man is a superb collection of stories capturing the gritty spirit of Detroit and the sometimes grim circumstances of the characters shaped by its industry and economics. Grounded on the bleak streets of the Motor City, these stories also explore the mythical “Up North,” the idealized country of many Detroit workers’ fantasy—an escape from the concrete and metal reality of their daily lives. Daniels’ characters are resilient and defiant, inhabiting a world that has often placed them on the margins of society, scouring a declining region for spiritual providence. Building on Daniels’ earlier collections of stories, Trigger Man brings vivid life to individuals struggling both to remain in and to flee the city that once sustained them.
Intense attention has been paid to Detroit as a site of urban crisis. This crisis, however, has not only yielded the massive devaluation of real estate that has so often been noted; it has also yielded an explosive production of seemingly valueless urban property that has facilitated the imagination and practice of alternative urbanisms. The first sustained study of Detroit’s alternative urban cultures, The Unreal Estate Guide to Detroit initiates a new focus on Detroit as a site not only of urban crisis but also of urban possibility.
The Guide documents art and curatorial practices, community and guerilla gardens, urban farming and forestry, cultural platforms, living archives, evangelical missions, temporary public spaces, intentional communities, furtive monuments, outsider architecture, and other work made possible by the ready availability of urban space in Detroit. The Guide poses these spaces as “unreal estate”: urban territory that has slipped through the free- market economy and entered other regimes of value, other contexts of meaning, and other systems of use. The appropriation of this territory in Detroit, the Guide suggests, offers new perspectives on what a city is and can be, especially in a time of urban crisis.
On July 23, 1967, the Detroit police raided a blind pig (after-hours drinking establishment), touching off the most destructive urban riot of the 1960s. It took the U.S. Army, the Michigan National Guard, the Michigan State Police, and the Detroit police department—17,000 men—more than a week to restore order. When all was done, the riot had claimed 43 lives (mostly Black) and resulted in nearly 700 injuries. Over 7,000 individuals were arrested, with property damage estimates over $75 million. Yet, Detroit had been lauded nationally as a "model city" in the governance of a large industrial metropolis. On the 40th anniversary of this nation-changing event, we are pleased to reissue Sidney Fine's seminal work—a detailed study of what happened, why, and with what consequences.
During World War II, factories across America retooled for wartime production, and unprecedented labor opportunities opened up for women and minorities. In We, Too, Are Americans, Megan Taylor Shockley examines the experiences of the African American women who worked in two capitols of industry--Detroit, Michigan, and Richmond, Virginia--during the war and the decade that followed it, making a compelling case for viewing World War II as the crucible of the civil rights movement.
As demands on them intensified, the women working to provide American troops with clothing, medical supplies, and other services became increasingly aware of their key role in the war effort. A considerable number of the African Americans among them began to use their indispensability to leverage demands for equal employment, welfare and citizenship benefits, fair treatment, good working conditions, and other considerations previously denied them.
Shockley shows that as these women strove to redefine citizenship, backing up their claims to equality with lawsuits, sit-ins, and other forms of activism, they were forging tools that civil rights activists would continue to use in the years to come.
Within the Lighted City
Lisa Lenzo University of Iowa Press, 1997 Library of Congress PS3562.E497W57 1997 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
Lisa Lenzo's stories explore what happens when safe boundaries are crossed. Often impetuous or unintentional, these crossings-over are never taken with full knowledge—characters step or glide or slip into trouble, and occasionally they hold still as danger overtakes them. The result is the loss of lives, limbs, or simply the illusion of safety. Yet despite their trials, the characters in these stories come away with a sense of hope for what remains.
All of the characters in Within the Lighted City are Detroiters or former Detroiters, including a near-albino teenager, an angel, and the Zito family—Ralph and Rosie and their children, who first appear in the collection during the '67 riots. Their stories of confrontation, loss, love, humor, and joy are, in the words of Stuart Dybek, “unsentimental in their honesty and at the same time powerfully empathetic.” They are also beautifully told.