The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit

The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit

by Thomas J. Sugrue


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The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit by Thomas J. Sugrue

Once America's "arsenal of democracy," Detroit over the last fifty years has become the symbol of the American urban crisis. In this reappraisal of racial and economic inequality in modern America, Thomas Sugrue explains how Detroit and many other once prosperous industrial cities have become the sites of persistent racialized poverty. He challenges the conventional wisdom that urban decline is the product of the social programs and racial fissures of the 1960s. Probing beneath the veneer of 1950s prosperity and social consensus, Sugrue traces the rise of a new ghetto, solidified by changes in the urban economy and labor market and by racial and class segregation.

In this provocative revision of postwar American history, Sugrue finds cities already fiercely divided by race and devastated by the exodus of industries. He focuses on urban neighborhoods, where white working-class homeowners mobilized to prevent integration as blacks tried to move out of the crumbling and overcrowded inner city. Weaving together the history of workplaces, unions, civil rights groups, political organizations, and real estate agencies, Sugrue finds the roots of today's urban poverty in a hidden history of racial violence, discrimination, and deindustrialization that reshaped the American urban landscape after World War II.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691011011
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/25/1996
Series: Princeton Studies in American Politics: Historical, International, and Comparative Perspectives Series
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.48(w) x 9.48(h) x 1.17(d)

About the Author

Thomas J. Sugrue is Associate Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

List of Tables xiii

Preface to the Princeton Classic Edition xv

Acknowledgments xxxiii

Introduction 3


Chapter 1: "Arsenal of Democracy" 17

Chapter 2: "Detroit's Time Bomb": Race and Housing in the 1940s 33

Chapter 3: "The Coffin of Peace": The Containment of Public Housing 57


Chapter 4: "The Meanest and the Dirtiest Jobs": The Structures of Employment Discrimination 91

Chapter 5: "The Damning Mark of False Prosperities": The Deindustrialization of Detroit 125

Chapter 6: "Forget about Your Inalienable Right to Work": Responses to Industrial Decline and Discrimination 153


Chapter 7: Class, Status, and Residence: The Changing Geography of Black Detroit 181

Chapter 8: "Homeowners'Rights": White Resistance and the Rise of Antiliberalism 209

Chapter 9: "United Communities Are Impregnable": Violence and the Color Line 231

Conclusion: Crisis: Detroit and the Fate of Postindustrial America 259


A. Index of Dissimilarity, Blacks and Whites in Major 273 American Cities, 1940-1990

B. African American Occupational Structure in Detroit, 275 1940-1970

List of Abbreviations in the Notes 279

Notes 281

Index 365

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