Tag Archives: Detroit

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


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


Woman wearing large apron holding a goose in her arms stands with two boys, November 8, 1912

Dirty Socks, Goose Fat, and Hot Toddies: Cold Remedies from the Folklore Archive



Reuther Library archivists Elizabeth Clemens and Dan Golodner raise a glass for the regional and ethnic cold remedies collected in the Reuther’s extensive Folklore Archive, including whiskey, honey, lemon, hot toddies, goose fat poultices, the color red, horehound, catnip tea, dirty socks, and the more dangerous turpentine and kerosene — don’t try those at home! Clemens explores why the informants interviewed resorted to folklore remedies, why we still use them today, and why a few of these remedies just might work.

Related Collections
Folklore Archive

Episode Credits
Producers: Dan Golodner and Troy Eller English
Host: Dan Golodner
Interviewees: Elizabeth Clemens
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


“Long Memory is the Most Radical Idea in America:” Field Report from Reuther Collections Gatherer Louis Jones



Dr. Louis Jones discusses his work in building relationships to bring records into the Reuther Library documenting the American labor movement, civil rights, and the history of metropolitan Detroit. He explains how he brought three recent acquisitions into the Reuther Library: the papers of labor activist and folk singer Utah Phillips; the business records of civil rights organization NAACP Detroit; and the records of LGBT Detroit, an organization working to support and advocate for Detroit’s LGBT community. Jones is the field archivist for the Walter P. Reuther Library, and received a Ph.D. in history from Wayne State University.

*Note: Since the recording of this episode, we have received word that our former colleague discussed in the episode now prefers to be known as Perez.

Related Resources
Collection Spotlight: LGBT Materials at the Reuther Library
Collection Spotlight: The Utah Phillips Papers
NAACP Detroit Branch Records – An addition to a long history of fighting for civil rights and community improvement

Related Collections
LGBT Detroit Records
Utah Phillips Papers
NAACP Detroit Branch Records

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