Category Archives: Civil Rights

Michigan Black History Bibliography Sample Card

(Re)Introducing the Michigan Black History Bibliography



Reuther Library field archivist Dr. Louis Jones and former archives students and staff members Mattie Duggan and Allie Penn discuss the Reuther’s Michigan Black History Bibliography (MBHB) and the multi-year, student-led project to digitize a decades-old index card file. Meticulously compiled by Reuther librarian Roberta McBride in the 1970s, the MBHB cataloged well-known and obscure articles, theses, and other bibliographic sources about African American history in Michigan, including slavery in Detroit in the 1700s, Underground Railroad activity in the 1800s, the racism and discrimination Blacks faced in the 1900s, and African American community-building efforts throughout. Jones discusses the history and importance of the MBHB card file, while Duggan and Penn describe the efforts of the Wayne State University chapter of the Society of American Archivists to digitize the resource, with financial assistance of a Carnegie-Whitney Grant from the American Library Association.

Related Resources:
Michigan Black History Bibliography
Michigan Black History Bibliography Now Available Online

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Louis Jones, Mattie Duggan, Alexandrea Penn
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Race and Rebellion: Reexamining the Unlearned Lessons of the Kerner Report a Half Century Later



Reuther Library outreach archivist Meghan Courtney discusses the conclusions of the 1968 Kerner Commission report in the context of today’s protests over race relations and police brutality. Following infamous rebellions in Detroit and Newark in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson established the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, chaired by Illinois governor Otto Kerner, to identify the root causes of urban racial unrest and prevent further violence in American cities. In its final report, the Commission placed the ultimate blame for so-called riots on lack of educational and economic opportunity for African Americans, ingrained institutional and societal racism, and militarized police forces, among other reasons. President Johnson and other leaders largely failed to adopt the recommendations suggested by the Kerner Commission to reduce racial tension by creating more equitable opportunities for African Americans in employment, education, welfare, and suitable housing. Courtney explains how she uses the Kerner Commission report to help students better understand the root causes of Detroit’s 1967 uprising and why that unrest continues today.

Related Resources:
50 Years Later: the Kerner Commission and the Poor People’s Campaign
Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (Kerner Commission Report)

Related Collections:
Jerome Cavanagh Papers
Norman McRae Papers
New Detroit, Inc. Records
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Meghan Courtney
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work: Black-Owned Businesses and the Housewives League of Detroit



Allie Penn explains how her work on a grant-funded digitization project introduced her to the Housewives League of Detroit and led to a digital humanities project mapping Detroit Black-owned businesses from the 1930s through 1950s. Espousing the informal motto, “Don’t buy where you can’t work,” the Housewives League of Detroit was founded in 1930 by Fannie Peck to unite and empower Black housewives in the city while also strengthening the economic base of the Black community. An offshoot of her work on the Housewives League of Detroit collection, Penn has been mapping 1930s through 1950s Black-owned businesses, as advertised in Voice of Negro Business, a newspaper produced by the Housewives League of Detroit and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association, the Housewives League’s male counterpart founded by Peck’s husband, Rev. William Peck.

Penn is a Wayne State History PhD candidate, archivist, and a former Reuther Library staff member. The Housewives League of Detroit Records are located in the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. They were digitized as part of a collaborative LSTA grant from the Library of Michigan to digitize and make available records documenting underrepresented populations. Partners on the grant also included the Arab American National Museum, which digitized the oral history project, “Arab Americans and the Automobile: Voices from the Factory,” and the Walter P. Reuther Library, which digitized the LGBT Detroit Records. These and other collections can be accessed online on the Michigan Memories portal: www.michmemories.org

Related Resources:
Michigan Memories
Detroit Black-Owned Businesses StoryMap

Related Collections:
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
NAACP Detroit Branch Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Allie Penn
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A group exploring primary source maps in the Reuther Library reading room, September 27, 2017

Creating that “A-Ha!” Moment: Using Archives and Primary Sources to Inspire Active Learning in the Classroom



Outreach archivist Meghan Courtney discusses the Reuther Library’s efforts to extend primary source instruction beyond history classes to inspire active learning in the classroom and empower students to become part of scholarly conversations. Through the Reuther’s innovative Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL), Wayne State economics students have studied Detroit-area public food programs to understand the intersection of economics and public health. Law students have examined police reports, eye-witness accounts, and contemporary reporting to weigh the evidence and draw their own conclusions about Detroit’s infamous 1969 New Bethel Incident. And K-12 teachers have learned how to integrate primary source instruction into their curricula at all age levels. Courtney also discusses how students and teachers can access digitized archival resources, and offers suggestions and resources for archives and special collections looking to make their archival instruction more robust.

Related Resources
Reuther Library Archives and Primary Resource Education Lab (APREL)
Reuther Library Primary Source Document Sets and Teacher Plans

  • Detroit 1967
  • Judge Damon Keith: A Life of Service and Great Purpose
  • League of Revolutionary Black Workers
  • Radicalism in American Politics
  • What is the Labor Movement

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Meghan Courtney
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Poorly Described Folders and Human Hair: Processing Report with ALUA Archivist Shae Rafferty



Shae Rafferty, the Reuther Library’s Labor and Urban Affairs Archivist, explains what happens behind the scenes to get donated collections ready for researchers. She discusses how collections are prioritized for processing, or organizing and describing them to make it easier for researchers to find the information they’re looking for. Rafferty describes some of the memorable things she has found in the collections she has processed, both pleasant (scrapbooks made by friends and Detroit theater ushers in the early 1900s) and unpleasant (human hair). She also recalls finding a deeply important but largely forgotten log of 1940s racial incidents in a folder unhelpfully titled, “Barometer Report,” emphasizing how important it is for archivists to re-evaluate and re-describe the contents of collections to make them more findable for researchers.

Related Collections
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Lyrick Club Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Shae Rafferty
Sound: Troy Eller English
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


A Double Agent, A Conservative Affirmative Action Advocate, and A Black Nationalist Walk Into an Archive…: Field Report with Archivist Louis Jones



After a brief hiatus we’re back! Reuther Library Field Archivist Louis Jones discusses fascinating collections recently opened at the Reuther Library. William Gernaey was hired by Chrysler and Ford in the 1930s and 1940s to infiltrate the Community Party in Michigan, which in turn hired him to spy on local unions. Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. became the first African American manager at Michigan Bell Telephone Company in 1939, and later at AT&T, and although a conservative he advocated for affirmative action policies to raise opportunities for all African Americans. In 1965 Edward Vaughn opened the nation’s second black bookstore, Vaughn’s Books in Detroit, later represented his community in the Michigan House of Representative for many years, and has been actively involved in the NAACP in Alabama since his retirement. Together, their archival collections add to the Reuther Library’s extensive resources documenting 20th century politics and civil rights in Michigan. Jones is the field archivist for the Walter P. Reuther Library, and received a Ph.D. in history from Wayne State University.

Related Resources
Collection Spotlight: Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers

Related Collections
William Gernaey Papers
Ramon S. Scruggs, Sr. Papers
Edward Vaughn Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Louis Jones
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: William Gernaey, “Communist,” Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City Project: vmc26150
With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, Paul Neirink, and Mary Wallace


Hidden in the Fields: Invisible Agricultural Child Labor in the American Southwest and the Limits of Citizenship



Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez explains how labor laws helped define the modern boundaries of childhood and citizenship for both internationally and domestically migrant Latinx children working on American farms. Despite the child labor ban supposedly implemented in 1938 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act and later laws, legal loopholes have allowed migrant Latinx children to continue to work on American farms today and have limited their access to education. Padilla-Rodríguez explains how advocates fought to enact social welfare initiatives for farmworking children along their migratory route, while teachers and women UFW organizers pursued legislative channels to try to get stricter child labor protections, and special educational and childcare programs created for migrant youth. Padilla-Rodríguez is a Ph.D. candidate in the Columbia University Department of History and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Latinx Research Center.

Related Collections
Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee Records
Dolores Huerta Papers
Michigan Farm Worker Ministry Coalition Records
National Farm Workers Association Records
National Farm Worker Ministry Records
Ronald B. Taylor Papers
UFW Organizing Committee (UFWOC) Records
UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records
UFW Texas Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ivón Padilla-Rodríguez
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Punishing Promise: School Discipline in the Era of Desegregation



Matt Kautz explains how his observations while teaching in Detroit and Chicago led him to study the rise of suspensions and other disciplinary tactics in urban districts during school desegregation, fueling the school-to-prison pipeline. His research has focused particularly on Boston, Detroit, and Louisville during court-ordered desegregation, for which there is ample documentation of school disciplinary codes, statistics on usage against students, and responses from administrators, teachers, law enforcement, and the community. Kautz is a Ph.D. candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University

Related Collections
AFT Local 231: Detroit Federation of Teachers Records
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Detroit Public Schools Community Relations Division Records
Wayne State University College of Education, Dean’s Office: Detroit Public Schools Monitoring Commission on Desegregation Records

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Matt Kautz
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


Rise Up Detroit: Stories from the African American Struggle for Power



Dr. Peter Blackmer discusses the launch of Rise Up Detroit (www.riseupdetroit.org), a website documenting the stories of activists in the Civil Rights and Black Power movements in Detroit. The website uses extensive oral history interviews and extensive archival resources from the Walter P. Reuther Library and other archives in the region to teach audiences of all ages about social justice issues through the history of the African American struggle for power. Rise Up Detroit is the second website created as part of “The North: Civil Rights and Beyond in Urban America,” an online educational tool conceived of and produced by lawyer and civil rights activist Junius Williams, Esq.

Blackmer is the lead researcher for the Rise Up North project and a Racial Equity Research Fellow at Wayne State University’s Detroit Equity Action Lab.

Related Resources
Rise Up Detroit
Rise Up Newark

Related Collections
Robert “Buddy” Battle III and Marion Battle Papers
James and Grace Lee Boggs Papers
Helen Bowers Papers
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
Kenneth V. and Sheila M. Cockrel Papers
Detroit Commission on Community Relations (DCCR) / Human Rights Department Records
Detroit Revolutionary Movements Records
NAACP Detroit Branch Records
New Detroit, Inc. Records
Ernest Smith Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Peter Blackmer
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink


“She Never Gave Up on This City:” Remembering Firebrand Detroit City Councilwoman Maryann Mahaffey



Labor and Urban Affairs archivist Shae Rafferty shares how Maryann Mahaffey’s college summer job as recreation director at the Poston Japanese internment camp in Arizona in 1945 strengthened her resolve to fight against discrimination and help those in need later in her career in social work. In Detroit, Mahaffey created a tenants’ council while program director at Detroit’s Brightmoor Community Center in the 1960s, and established the Detroit Mayor’s Task Force on Malnutrition and Hunger while also teaching in the School of Social Work at Wayne State University. Although she lost her first campaign for public office in 1970, she won a Michigan Supreme Court ruling affirming women’s right to use their maiden names when running for public office.

During her time on the Detroit City Council from 1973-2005, including many years as president, Mahaffey created the city’s first rape crisis unit within the police department, expanded the city’s healthcare benefits to include gay couples, chaired the Council’s Housing Task Force, opened the Detroit Athletic Club to women. Host Dan Golodner calls for a building to be named in her honor. The Maryann Mahaffey Papers are now open and available for research at the Reuther Library.

Related Collections
Maryann Mahaffey Papers
Detroit Public Library Burton Historical Collection

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Shae Rafferty
Sound: Troy Eller English

With support from the Reuther Podcast Collective: Bart Bealmear, Elizabeth Clemens, Meghan Courtney, Troy Eller English, Dan Golodner, and Paul Neirink