Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City (With a New Prologue)

Whose Detroit?: Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City (With a New Prologue)

by Heather Ann Thompson

Paperback(With a New Prologue)

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America's urbanites have engaged in many tumultuous struggles for civil and worker rights since the Second World War. In Whose Detroit?, Heather Ann Thompson focuses in detail on the struggles of Motor City residents during the 1960s and early 1970s and finds that conflict continued to plague the inner city and its workplaces even after Great Society liberals committed themselves to improving conditions.

Using the contested urban center of Detroit as a model, Thompson assesses the role of such upheaval in shaping the future of America's cities. She argues that the glaring persistence of injustice and inequality led directly to explosions of unrest in this period. Thompson finds that unrest as dramatic as that witnessed during Detroit's infamous riot of 1967 by no means doomed the inner city, nor in any way sealed its fate. The politics of liberalism continued to serve as a catalyst for both polarization and radical new possibilities and Detroit remained a contested, and thus politically vibrant, urban center.

Thompson's account of the post-World War II fate of Detroit casts new light on contemporary urban issues, including white flight, police brutality, civic and shop floor rebellion, labor decline, and the dramatic reshaping of the American political order. Throughout, the author tells the stories of real events and individuals, including James Johnson, Jr., who, after years of suffering racial discrimination in Detroit's auto industry, went on trial in 1971 for the shooting deaths of two foremen and another worker at a Chrysler plant.

Bringing the labor movement into the context of the literature of Sixties radicalism, Whose Detroit? integrates the history of the 1960s into the broader political history of the postwar period. Urban, labor, political, and African-American history are blended into Thompson's comprehensive portrayal of Detroit's reaction to pressures felt throughout the nation. With deft attention to the historical background and preoccupations of Detroit's residents, Thompson has written a biography of an entire city at a time of crisis.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781501709210
Publisher: Longleaf Services on Behalf of Cornell University
Publication date: 04/01/2017
Edition description: With a New Prologue
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 645,632
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Heather Ann Thompson is Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the Pulitzer- and Bancroft-winning author of Blood in the Water: The Attica Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, Salon, Dissent, New Labor Forum, and The Huffington Post.

Table of Contents

Prologue to the 2017 Printing

Introduction: Reassessing the Fate of Postwar Cities, Politics, and Labor

1. Beyond Racial Polarization: Political Complexity in the City and Labor Movement of the 1950s

2. Optimism and Crisis in the New Liberal Metropolis

3. Driving Desperation on the Auto Shop Floor

4. Citizens, Politicians, and the Escalating War for Detroit's Civic Future

5. Workers, Officials, and the Escalating War for Detroit’s Labor Future

6. From Battles on City Streets to Clashes in the Courtroom

7. From Fights for Union Office to Wildcats in the Workplace

8. Urban Realignment and Labor Retrenchment: An End to Detroit’s War at Home

Conclusion: Civic Transformation and Labor Movement Decline in Postwar Urban America


What People are Saying About This

Nancy Gabin

"Heather Thompson uncovers as few others have the rich variety of black community and workplace organizations in Detroit in the 1960s and 1970s. Her effort to show the different responses of city leaders and union leaders to racial issues challenges the tendency either to merge these two groups or to overlook the distinctions between them."

Elizabeth Hinton

"Sixteenyears after its original release, Whose Detroit? remains essential reading. It illuminates the political, economic, and social forces that perpetuate poverty and inequality in America. Heather Thompson offers us profound commentary not just on the history of the Motor City, but the nation as a whole."

Robert H. Zieger

"A valuable addition to literature on race, labor, and urban life in postwar America. Whose Detroit? identifies the crucial link between shop floor and labor union issues, on the one hand, and broader urban political developments on the other."

Robin D. G. Kelley

"Heather Thompson powerfully rewrites the narrative of the collapse of late-sixties liberalism and of the liberal/labor alliance. The 1967 riots were a turning point in the history of the Detroit Left, perhaps the most important radical community in the country during this period. Rather than accept the riots as a product of rising black militancy, impatience, and scapegoating of 'whitey,' Thompson argues that they played a key role in the ascendance of the Black Power movement."

Thomas J. Sugrue

"In Whose Detroit?, prize-winning historian Heather Ann Thompson offers a fresh overview of urban liberalism and its critics during the rise of black political power. From her detailed discussion of radical politics to her rich account of struggles over race and policing, there is much to learn in these pages."

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