Tag Archives: Detroit

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


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


Mechanical Engineer To Booth Babe and Back Again: The Tragicomic Career of Wayne State Engineering Alum Lucille Pieti



Society of Women Engineers archivist Troy Eller English shares the tragicomic story of Lucille Pieti, 1950 mechanical engineering alum and Miss Wayne University. Sidelined in technical writing despite her degree and experience, Pieti found her career veering farther and farther away from engineering in the mid-1950s as her bosses at Chrysler capitalized on her beauty rather than her brains. Molded into a spokeswoman at auto shows and in Hollywood, and giving specs on the Dodge La Femme’s pink umbrella instead of its engine block, Pieti reclaimed her engineering identity by leaving Chrysler, and the country, in 1955.

Related Collections:
Society of Women Engineers Records
Society of Women Engineers Detroit Section Records
Society of Women Engineers Publications
The Wayne Engineer / The Buzz Saw
Wayne State University Collegian Newspapers

Related Resources:
Collections Spotlight: “Out of the House: Detroit Women’s Organizations in the 20th Century”
Amy Sue Bix – Girls Coming to Tech!: A History of American Engineering Education for Women
Edward A. Malone – “Chrysler’s ‘Most Beautiful Engineer’: Lucille J. Pieti in the Pillory of Fame”
Margaret W. Rossiter – Women scientists in America

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: 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


Uncovering Detroit Sound: Sippie Wallace and Son House in the Folklore Archives



Archivist Bart Bealmear explains how he rediscovered recordings of famed African American blues musicians Sippie Wallace and Son House buried in the Reuther Library’s Folklore Archives. One of the most famous female blues vocalists in the 1920s, Sippie Wallace left the blues stage for four decades, choosing instead to sing and play the organ at Leland Baptist Church in Detroit. The recording Bealmear uncovered in the Folklore Archives captures Wallace demoing T.B. Blues in her living room in 1965, prior to her professional comeback in 1966. Bealmear also shares a clip from an April 18, 1965 WDTM interview with American Delta blues singer and guitarist Son House, recorded when he performed at the DeRoy Auditorium at Wayne State University in Detroit. In the excerpt, House tells the story of discouraging a man named Robert from playing the guitar due to poor skill — a man who turned out to be famed blues musician Robert Johnson.

Bealmear also promotes an upcoming concert featuring Detroit’s “Soul Ambassador” Melvin Lincoln Davis and Dennis Coffey, R&B and soul guitarist for the Motown Records Funk Brothers studio band. The concert will be held in the atrium of the Reuther Library on January 23, 2020 on the stage of the historic Bluebird Inn, restored and on loan from the Detroit Sound Conservancy. Doors open at 6 p.m.

Related Collections
Folklore Archive: Studies and Research Projects
Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Records
Folklore Archive: Student Field Projects Photographs
Sippie Wallace, T.B. Blues, 1965
Son House, WDTM interview, April 18, 1965 (excerpt #1)
Son House, WDTM interview, April 18, 1965 (excerpt #2)

More Information
Detroit Sound Conservancy
Dennis Coffey

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Interviewer: Dan Golodner
Interviewee: Bart Bealmear
Sound: Troy Eller English
Image: Sippie Wallace, Walter P. Reuther Library, Virtual Motor City project: vmc49649_1

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