Tag Archives: Civil Rights

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


Portrait of Cesar Chavez taken at his 8th grade graduation, 1942. This was his final year of formal schooling before he went to work in the fields full time.

Reading the Room: How César Chávez’s Early Life Prepared Him to Lead



Dr. Clay Walker explains how César Chávez’s lifeworld discourse – the language, culture, and experiences that shaped who he was and how he encountered and navigated the world – uniquely prepared him to lead the United Farm Workers and effectively communicate his message to a diverse audience. Dr. Walker is a senior lecturer in English and literacy studies at Wayne State University.

Related Collections:
UFW Office of the President: Cesar Chavez Records
Sydney D. Smith Papers

Related Resources:
Clay Walker – “Lifeworld Discourse, Translingualism, and Agency in a Discourse Genealogy of César Chávez’s Literacies”

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


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 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


(5213) Matilda (Rabinowitz) Robbins, Arrest, 1910s

Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir of Wobbly Organizer Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins (Part 2)



In the second of a two-episode series, artist Robbin Légère Henderson discusses the life of her grandmother, Matilda Rabinowitz Robbins, a Socialist, IWW organizer, feminist, writer, mother, and social worker. Henderson shares stories from Robbins’ autobiography, Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century, explaining how the optimism of a 13-year-old immigrant from the Ukraine was soon undone by the realities of working in garment sweatshops on the East Coast, leading to Matilda Robbins’ brief but influential role as labor organizer for the International Workers of the World from 1912 to 1917.

Related Resources
Exhibit Announcement: “Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman”
Blog: Love Letters
Book: Immigrant Girl, Radical Woman: A Memoir from the Early Twentieth Century
robbinhenderson.com

Related Collections
Matilda Robbins Papers
Industrial Workers of the World Records
Ben Légère Papers
John Beffel Papers

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Robbin Légère Henderson
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