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.
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.
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.
Labor historian Dr. Toni Gilpin explores how the McCormick family’s greed and union-busting in the late 19th century set the stage for a bitter battle between the International Harvester corporation and the radical Farm Equipment Workers union in the 1930s and 1940s. Although the union was absorbed by the United Auto Workers in 1955, Gilpin describes how the militancy bred into generations of International Harvester workers influenced UAW tactics into the 1970s.
Dr. Gilpin’s book, The Long Deep Grudge: A Story of Big Capital, Radical Labor, and Class War in the American Heartland, received a Taft Labor History Award honorable mention award in 2020.
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.
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.
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