Detroit: A Biography

Detroit: A Biography

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by Scott Martelle
     
 

Detroit was established as a French settlement three-quarters of a century before the founding of this nation. A remote outpost built to protect trapping interests, it grew as agriculture expanded on the new frontier. Its industry took a great leap forward with the completion of the Erie Canal, which opened up the Great Lakes to the East Coast. Surrounded by

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Overview

Detroit was established as a French settlement three-quarters of a century before the founding of this nation. A remote outpost built to protect trapping interests, it grew as agriculture expanded on the new frontier. Its industry took a great leap forward with the completion of the Erie Canal, which opened up the Great Lakes to the East Coast. Surrounded by untapped natural resources, Detroit turned iron from the Mesabi Range into stoves and railcars, and eventually cars by the millions. This vibrant commercial hub attracted businessmen and labor organizers, European immigrants and African Americans from the rural South. At its mid-20th-century heyday, one in six American jobs were connected to the auto industry, its epicenter in Detroit. And then the bottom fell out.

            Detroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America’s great cities, and one of the nation’s greatest urban failures. It tells how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from 1.8 million residents in 1950 to 714,000 only six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deep, thick seams of racism. And it raises the question: when we look at modern-day Detroit, are we looking at the ghost of America’s industrial past or its future?

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781569765265
Publisher:
Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
04/01/2012
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
555,691
Product dimensions:
6.32(w) x 9.08(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

Scott Martelle, the author of The Fear Within and Blood Passion, is a veteran journalist and former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit News, whose work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Sierra magazine, and other outlets.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

1 A Difficult Childhood 1

2 The British Decades 9

Detroiters I The Morans 19

3 Detroit and the Canal of Riches 25

4 The Civil War and Racial Flashpoints 35

5 Detroit Turns Industrial 53

Detroiters II Michael Farrell 63

6 The Auto Era 69

7 A Great Migration 85

8 The Roaring Twenties 95

9 Great Depression 113

10 The Black Legion 127

11 Housing and the Racial Divide 133

12 The War Years 139

13 The 1943 Riot 147

14 The Postwar Boom 159

15 Race in the Fifties 171

Detroiters III Henry Russell Jr. 181

16 Death of the Covenants 187

Detroiters IV The Baloks 199

17 The Oil Embargo 205

Detroiters V John Thompson 215

18 When the Jobs Go Away 225

Detroiters VI Shelley 237

19 Pittsburgh, a Different Case 243

20 An Epilogue 251

Acknowledgments 259

Selected Bibliography 261

Notes 267

Index 281

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