Category Archives: Civil Rights

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


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


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


Bootlegged Aliens: How Undocumented Immigrants from Canada in the 1920s Shaped American Immigration Policy



Dr. Ashley Johnson Bavery explains how undocumented European immigrants coming over the Canadian border to work in the Detroit auto industry in the 1920s and 1930s spurred nativist discourse, influenced government policies toward illegal immigration, and shaped how business and labor unions used and positioned migrant labor. Dr. Bavery is Assistant Professor of History at Eastern Michigan University and author of Bootlegged Aliens: Immigration Politics on America’s Northern Border.

Related Collections:
AFL-CIO Metropolitan Detroit Records
Joe Brown Papers
Civil Rights Congress of Michigan Records
Richard Frankensteen Papers
International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit Records
Henry Kraus Papers
James Lindahl Papers
Maurice Sugar Papers
United Community Services Central Files

Related Resources:
Bavery, A.J. (2020). Bootlegged Aliens: Immigration Politics on America’s Northern Border. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Ashley Johnson Bavery
Music: Bart Bealmear


The Detroit Interracial Committee and Racial Pragmatism, 1944-1950



Sean Henry discusses the Detroit Interracial Committee’s (IRC) pragmatic attempt to ease racial tensions in the city following the 1943 Detroit riots. Assuming that it could not completely eliminate racial antagonism, the IRC instead used its Community Barometer initiative and the Detroit Public Schools program for intercultural education to identify and manage systemic racial inequities in the city. Henry recently received an MA in History from the University of Chicago and is a college transition advisor in the Detroit Public Schools Community District. His article on the Detroit Interracial Committee was named the 2019 Graduate Student Essay Prize Winner in the Spring 2020 issue of the Michigan Historical Review.

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

Related Resources:
Henry, S. (2020). 2019 Graduate Student Essay Prize Winner: Racial Pragmatism and the Conditions of Racial Contact: The Detroit Interracial Committee, Public Schools, and Measuring Racial Tension, 1944-1950. Michigan Historical Review, 46(1), 69-105.

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Sean Henry
Music: Bart Bealmear


Henry Ford marches with Oscar Marx through the streets of downtown Detroit during the draft parade, circa 1914

When It Happened Here: Michigan and the Transnational Development of American Fascism, 1920-1945



Salaina Catalano Crumb explains how American fascism developed and thrived in Michigan from the 1920s through the 1940s due to the influence of right-wing individuals and organizations swayed by the politics of Nazi Germany, including industrialist Henry Ford, anti-communist clergy members Father Coughlin and Reverend Gerald L.K. Smith, militant secret societies like the Black Legion, and immigrant veterans’ and fascist groups including the German American Bund. Crumb received dual MA/MSc degrees in International & World History at Columbia University and the London School of Economics, and works in the automotive field.

Related Collections:
Peter H. Amann Papers
Father Charles Coughlin FBI Files
Samuel Kellman Papers
Social Justice (Father Coughlin’s anti-communist publication)
Maurice Sugar Papers

Related Resources:
Salaina Catalano – “When It Happened Here: Michigan and the Transnational Development of American Fascism, 1920-1945,” Michigan Historical Review

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewee: Salaina Catalano Crumb
Music: Bart Bealmear


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 Dugan 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 Dugan 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 Dugan, 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