A Miasma of Metals: The Steelworkers’ Environmental Call Following the Donora Smog of 1948



Louise Milone recounts how smog produced by the southwestern Pennsylvanian steel industry poisoned the air in the Monongahela Valley town of Donora on November 1, 1948, killing more than 22 people and sickening thousands more. Exploring the response of the US Steel Corporation, employees, and Donora residents, Milone explains how the United Steelworkers of America union pushed for an investigation and improved environmental and health and safety regulations following the disaster. Milone is a Ph.D. candidate in the University of Georgia Department of History.

Related Collections:
Olga Madar Papers

Harvey O’Connor Papers
UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Louise Milone
Music: Bart Bealmear


Governor George Romney leads the demonstration against housing discrimination through the “Village” in Grosse Pointe. Second from right is NAACP Detroit president Edward Turner.

A “Most Conscientious and Considerate Method”: Grosse Pointe’s Gross Post-War Housing Point System



Emma Maniere describes how homeowners associations in Grosse Pointe, an affluent suburb bordering Detroit, developed a point system following the Second World War to rank and exclude prospective homebuyers to maintain the community’s Anglo Christian whiteness and affluence. The point system, which ranked nativity and ethnicity, accent, skin tone, and occupation, among other measures, was dismantled in 1960 but left a pernicious legacy that continues to reverberate in the community today. Maniere is a doctoral candidate in the history program at New York University.

Related Collections:

ACLU of Michigan and Metropolitan Detroit Branch Records

Kathy Groehn Cosseboom El-Messidi Papers
Grosse Pointe Civil Rights Organizations Records

JCA: Jewish Community Council Records

Related Resources:
A “Most Conscientious and Considerate Method”: Residential Segregation and Integrationist Activism in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, 1960-1970

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Emma Maniere
Music: Bart Bealmear


Labor’s End: Automation’s Failed Promise of Freedom



Dr. Jason Resnikoff explains that the rise of automation in the mid-20th century workplace was heralded as a way to free workers from manual labor, but resulted instead in the intensification of human labor and the degradation of workers’ protections and powers. Resnikoff is a core lecturer in the History Department at Columbia University and author of Labor’s End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work.

Related Collections:
UAW archival collections
Detroit Revolutionary Movements Records
James and Grace Lee Boggs Papers

Related Resources:
Labor’s End: How the Promise of Automation Degraded Work

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Jason Resnikoff
Music: Bart Bealmear


Detroit vs. Everybody: Exploring Race, Place, and Black Superheroes in DC Comics



Dr. Vincent Haddad explains that while Detroit has often served as the inspiration for crime-ridden settings in comics, DC Comics rose above those stereotypes with black superheroes Amazing-Man in the 1980s series All-Star Squadron and the Cyborg solo series in the 2010s. He describes how those two series represented Detroit and issues of race, policing, and culture in a more historically-informed and nuanced manner.

Haddad is an associate professor of English at Central State University in Ohio, and the author of “Detroit vs. Everybody (Including Superheroes): Representing Race through Setting in DC Comics,” published in Inks: The Journal of the Comics Studies Society.

Related Collections:
Virtual Motor City / Detroit News Photograph Collection

Related Resources:
Detroit vs. Everybody (Including Superheroes): Representing Race through Setting in DC Comics

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Vincent Haddad
Music: Bart Bealmear


Detroit Remains: Using Historical Archeology to Connect Detroit’s Past to Its Present



Dr. Krysta Ryzewski explains how historical archaeology digs at famous Detroit locales – including the Little Harry speakeasy, the Blue Bird Inn, and the Grande Ballroom – have clarified how underrepresented communities of Detroit experienced and responded to the Great Migration, changing economic forces, and a shifting political and social landscape in the 20th century. Ryzweski is an associate professor and chair of the Anthropology Department at Wayne State University, and author of Detroit Remains: Archaeology and Community Histories of Six Legendary Places.

Related Collections:
Virtual Motor City / Detroit News Photograph Collection

Related Resources:
Detroit Remains: Archaeology and Community Histories of Six Legendary Places
Wayne State University Gordon L. Grosscup Museum of Anthropology

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Krysta Ryzewski
Music: Bart Bealmear


Environmental Activism in Deindustrialized Detroit



Brandon Ward explains how Detroit residents, community organizations, and the labor movement, alarmed by the pollution remaining in Detroit’s deindustrialized era that mostly heavily impacted Black Americans and the working class, worked together from the 1970s onward to create a healthier, greener, and more livable city.

Ward is a lecturer at Perimeter College at Georgia State University and author of Living Detroit: Environmental Activism in an Age of Urban Crisis.

Donations to the Walter P. Reuther Library Endowment Fund are gratefully accepted to support this podcast and enhance access to the Reuther Library’s collections.

Related Collections:
Detroit Revolutionary Movements Records
Olga Madar Papers
UAW Conservation and Recreation Department Records
UAW Local 600 Records

Related Resources:
Living Detroit: Environmental Activism in an Age of Urban Crisis

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Brandon Ward
Music: Bart Bealmear


Bargaining for the Common Good: Milton Tambor Reflects on 50 Years in Labor and Social Activism



Labor leader and social activist Milton Tambor discusses his life’s work in Detroit since the 1950s as a social worker; AFSCME local union president, staff representative and assistant education director; and teaching faculty in both labor studies and social work at Wayne State University and other institutions. He also discusses the intersection of labor and social political movements through his involvement in organizations such as the Detroit Coalition to End the War Now, the Michigan Labor Committee on Central America, and the Democratic Socialists of America in both Detroit and Atlanta. Tambor recently published a memoir titled A Democratic Socialist’s Fifty Year Adventure.

Related Collections:
AFSCME Michigan Council 25 Records
Detroit Coalition to End the War Now! Records
Milton Tambor Papers

Related Resources:
A Democratic Socialist’s Fifty Year Adventure

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Milton Tambor
Music: Bart Bealmear


SEIU Local 82, Justice for Janitors Demonstration, Baltimore, Maryland, 2001

And Many More: Celebrating SEIU’s Centennial in the Archives



Reuther Library SEIU archivist Sarah Lebovitz shares highlights from the union’s first 100 years, and explains how its archives at the Reuther Library have supported labor organizing and centennial celebrations.

Related Collections:
SEIU District 925 Records
SEIU Executive Office: George Hardy Records
SEIU Executive Office: John Sweeney Records
SEIU Executive Office: William McFetridge Records
SEIU Historical Records
SEIU Photographs
SEIU Publications

Related Resources:
Blog: SEIU at Churchill Downs
Blog: SEIU’s Justice for Janitors MOPSCAR Awards
Blog: Notable Women of SEIU
Podcast: SEIU: A Successful Union in an Era of Labor Decline
Podcast: Documenting the Now: SEIU Archivist Sarah Lebovitz on Using Archives to Empower the Future

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Sarah Lebovitz
Music: Bart Bealmear


Brewing a Boycott: Collective Activism and the Decades-Long Coors Beer Boycott



Dr. Allyson Brantley explains how large and diverse groups joined together for a decades-long consumer boycott of the Coors Brewing Company to fight against its union busting, discriminatory hiring practices, and politics. Brantley is an assistant professor of history and Director of Honors & Interdisciplinary Initiatives at the University of La Verne and author of Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism.

Related Collections:
AFSCME Office of the President: Gerald W. McEntee Records
AFT President’s Office: Albert Shanker Records
Bob Barber Papers
Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) Records
Dolores Huerta Papers
Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO Council: Tom Turner Records
Michigan Coalition for Human Rights Records
UAW President’s Office: Owen Bieber Records
UFW Office of the President: Arturo Rodriguez Records

Related Resources:
Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Allyson Brantley
Music: Bart Bealmear


Group of people some wearing labor union emblems, carry picket signs denouncing the deportation of Sam Sweet outside the Detroit Federal Building, 1950-04-08.

Communists and Community in Wartime Detroit



Dr. Ryan Pettengill explains how communist activists in Detroit worked with labor activists during and after the Second World War to enhance the quality of life in the community by advocating for civil rights, affordable housing, protections for the foreign-born, and more. Pettengill is a Professor of History at Collin College and author of Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941-1956.

Related Collections:
Don Binkowski Papers
Nat Ganley and Saul Wellman Papers
Maurice Sugar Papers
Sam Sweet Papers
Shelton Tappes Papers
Edith Van Horn Papers

UAW Fair Practices and Anti-Discrimination Department Records

UAW President’s Office: Walter P. Reuther Records

Related Resources:
Communists and Community: Activism in Detroit’s Labor Movement, 1941-1956

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ryan Pettengill
Music: Bart Bealmear