Category Archives: Urban Affairs

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


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


Architect Minoru Yamasaki stands behind an architectural model of New York City, 1958.

Sandfuture: Exploring Minoru Yamasaki, Lost Humanist Architecture, and the Rise of Sick Buildings and Sick People



Artist and author Justin Beal shares the career and legacy of influential yet often forgotten architect Minoru Yamasaki. Yamasaki’s human-centered architectural design was often overrun by economics, politics, and capitalist symbolism, leading to his two most well-known developments, the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis and the World Trade Center in New York City, to come crashing down on live television some thirty years apart–one at the hands of bureaucrats, the other by terrorists. Beal also considers how modern architectural trends and a changing climate have created a generation of buildings that ignore human needs, contributing to sick building syndrome. Beal recently published Sandfuture, his autobiographical exploration of Yamasaki’s legacy and how modern architecture has failed human health.

Related Collections:
Minoru Yamasaki Papers
Wayne State University College of Education Building Committee Records
Fred Hansen Papers

Related Resources:
Sandfuture

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Justin Beal
Music: Bart Bealmear


From Bargaining Table to Diplomatic Table: Leonard Woodcock in China (Part 2)



After Leonard Woodcock stepped down as president of the UAW in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent him to Beijing as a diplomatic envoy and ultimately as the nation’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. In the second of a two-part interview, his wife Sharon Woodcock talks about Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the United States; Leonard Woodcock’s work after leaving the State Department, including his work on the Board of Governors of Wayne State University; and his support of the Reuther Library. UAW archivist Gavin Strassel discusses Leonard Woodcock’s archival collections at the Reuther Library and the unique, first-hand view they provide into the formation of modern China and U.S / China relations.

Related Collections:
Leonard Woodcock Papers
Sharon Woodcock Oral History
UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records
UAW Vice President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records

Related Resources:
Collection Spotlight: Leonard Woodcock Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Gavin Strassel
Interviewee: Sharon Woodcock
Music: Bart Bealmear


From Bargaining Table to Diplomatic Table: Leonard Woodcock in China (Part 1)



After Leonard Woodcock stepped down as president of the UAW in 1977, U.S. President Jimmy Carter sent him to Beijing as a diplomatic envoy and ultimately as the nation’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. In the first of a two-part interview, his wife Sharon Woodcock talks about Leonard’s labor ideals and shares tales about their time in the ambassador’s residence, including his unusually close relationship with Deng Xiaoping, the leader and architect of modern China.

Related Collections:
Leonard Woodcock Papers
Sharon Woodcock Oral History
UAW President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records
UAW Vice President’s Office: Leonard Woodcock Records

Related Resources:
Collection Spotlight: Leonard Woodcock Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Gavin Strassel
Interviewee: Sharon Woodcock
Music: Bart Bealmear


It’s Been a Year: Reuther Library Director Aliqae Geraci Recalls Her First Year on the Job During a Global Pandemic



Aliqae Geraci explains that she had big plans when she became director of the Reuther Library a year ago, and those plans were immediately scuttled when her first day on the job coincided with the first day Wayne State University’s on-campus operations were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She describes how she and the Reuther pivoted in the past year to safely provide patrons virtual access to physical archival materials, and contemplates how the pandemic will and won’t change the Reuther’s services in the future. Geraci also shares how she became involved in labor libraries, and what she’s been binging during the pandemic.

Related Resources:
Meet Our New Director, Aliqae Geraci

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Aliqae Geraci
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