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In Thomas Sugrue's book The Origin of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, he argues that 1. the entire history of race inequality in Detroit is largely untouched, 2. the reinforcement of ideas of race, politics, and economics in the 1940s to 1960s led to modern day urbanity in America, and 3. that the postwar city is a result of political decisions and other choices made (or not made) by individuals, groups, and other institutions. By pursuing a topic that is (generally) not covered by historians, Sugrue poses a lot of questions and is only attempting to begin the conversation about Detroit and racial growth. -K.Eastridge

The book itself is divided into 3 different parts: “Arsenal” that details Detroit’s World War II population and industrial boom, the city’s subsequent housing shortage, and the failure of public housing to even get started. “Rust” describes the discrimination blacks suffered in hiring and work, the city’s deindustrialization, and how various interest groups responded. “Fire” describes how the city segregated by class despite increased black mobility, how whites maintained racial segregation even as blacks moved into their neighborhoods, the violent attempts of whites to keep blacks out of an area, and the riots which marked the urban crisis of the title. (Hunter Dykhuis)

In Surges, Origin of Urban Crisis he talks about the changes in Detroit’s society and how neighborhood changes over time. While doing so Surges mentions the change in Detroit during the 20th century and World War Two. During the 20th century racial tensions was rising more and effecting the African American community. Surges mentions how Detroit was viewed as being a place of opportunity and job development, but he also mentions how the economic side of Detroit’s development was not equal. Also, with talking about the economic side of Detroit Surges argued how the racial tensions and economic opportunity effected the city of Detroit- Jasmine Williams

Part One: Arsenal

Arsenal of Democracy

Detroit saw a series of economic boom decades until its eventual demise in the 1950s/60s. Starting with the beginning of World War II, Detroit quickly became an unstoppable powerhouse for militant industrialization. As with most cities in the beginning, the manufactures of Detroit relied heavily on train and steamboat transportation. As a result, the city layout was seen as chaotic with factories, retail, and domestic homes arranged together. However, with the impending doom of World War II, Detroit industries quickly switched in order to help in the mass production of militaristic items (tanks, airplanes, military cars). As a center of industrial work, many fled to Detroit in pursuit of wartime jobs. This led to the creation of some of the most powerful unions in America, like the United Automobile Workers union. -K.Eastridge

Arsenal of Democracy goes over how Detroit was viewed as a “total industrial landscape” because the factories and neighborhoods would tie together in the city (18). Detroit was known for the automobile industry and over 40% of the industries in Detroit was in the automobile industry (18). Transportation was major factor in Detroit and with have the automobile Detroit provide a relationship between the two types of transportation. Also, with being known for their auto plant the auto industry had their own rail yards. - Jasmine Williams

Sugrue describes Detroit in chapter one as a growing industrial and economic power. A mix and white and black working class, that would populate the city. Different ethnic enclaves would pop up over Detroit, most notable the Lower East Side, this also had roots from the Great Migration of African Americans from the south. White Detroiters would respond by this by beginning to attempt to create white homogeneity of sections of the city. World War II would give new opportunities to Detroit’s black working class, putting them in a position of upward mobility not previously seen. –J.Binns

In the early 1940 Detroit was the leading nation in economic landscape from the Great Depression. Detroit over the years manufacturing employment increased by 40%. Some of the people who were looking for jobs in Detroit came from the farm lands that were in trouble during the Great Depression and people from the South. With people looking for jobs in Detroit in provided the city to have some of the most powerful unions in which also started to include people from other ethnic backgrounds- Jasmine Williams

Detriot was an “industrial zenith” (19) in the 1940's. Factories were growing at a rapid rate, and manufacturing employment grew by 40%. Surrounding the factories were the blue collar neighborhoods. From every direction you could see rows and rows of frame and brick houses. Most of the homes were single family houses, or two family houses.

Besides the industrial growth in Detriot in the 1940's, the population of Detriot was growing rapidly as well. From 1910 to 1970 the population of Detriot increased by roughly 1.1 million people. By the 1970's 44.5% of the population was African Americans. The city had a lot of social tension. By the 1940's class and race became more important than ethnicity to the city's residential geography (22). The white Detriot's lived in certain neighborhoods like the Boston-Edison. The automobile executives, bankers, lawyers, and doctors lived in these neighborhoods. They were full of mansions that had 10-20 rooms, of either Tudor style, New England-style colonials, or Georgian style.

Detroit's Time Bomb: Race and Housing in the 1940s

With the huge boom population mostly due to World War II industrialization and the Great Migration, Detroit saw a huge increase in their black population. Sugrue begins this chapter with an account from a black woman and her family living in Detroit in 1949: described as a dilapidated structure with nothing functioning as it should. Sadly, these conditions were normalized among the black population. There are a couple of key factors as to worsening condition of housing and race in Detroit. One being the lack of housing or housing initiatives for the growing black population meant that families had to crowd in with one another. Another factor is because housing is so limited, landlords took that opportunity to increase rent to astronomical amounts. Black people were already forced into lower paid jobs (and were paid less than their white counterparts), so with landlords increasing rent more of their small paycheck is forced to go into the rent. And finally, banks would label predominately black communities as a “financial” risk and would refuse to give loans to any one living in a red district which meant that houses (which could have been saved) fell a part due to a lack of funding and there was NO mobility. -K.Eastridge

World War II represented a turning point in black employment prospects. There were three main factors to the opening of industrial jobs to black men and women during the 1940s. First was the tight labor market. The war caused Detroit firms to be unable to meet the high demand for labor and that led to them hiring black people for jobs that were restricted to white men. The wages to these jobs were much higher than the South, which explains why black people moved for them. Secondly, unions and civil rights played a huge role in changing the terms on which black people were being hired. The UAW made the push for the inclusion of blacks in the workplace and stopped the use of African Americans for breaking strikes. Lastly, President Roosevelt's Executive Order 8802, which mandated nondiscrimination in war industries and also by creating the FEPC to diffuse the growing black protest movement. The FEPC responded to pressure from the NAACP and the UAW to investigate Detroit plants and it also forced employers to hire and upgrade black people and to make their white counterparts more accepting of them. GB

White neighborhoods, especially working-class homeowners, viewed the influx of black people as threats to their jobs and even to their livelihood. They tried to protect themselves by refusing to sell to black people, threatening violence toward the blacks who tried to move out of black deemed sections of the city, and also by establishing restrictive contracts to ensure that their neighborhood stay homogenous. In the 1920's, white Detroiters began to solidify racial homogeneity and ensure that black citizens would not move in because of the high costs and racism they would be subject to. Osian Sweet was tried for murder after shooting at a group of angry white people because he purchased a home in their neighborhood. This shows that black people were threatened but were also blamed for defending themselves. GB

Sugrue would speak in chapter two of the problems that new working class African Americans had in purchasing a home in Detroit. He argues a confluence of factors lead to these barriers, finances, white real estate agents not selling to blacks and banks refusing loans for African American families based on the location of the home. Aspects from these factors would all contribute to the racial housing segregation that Detroit would experience. –J. Binns

African Americans in Detroit had many barriers in city's market due to the poorest paying and most insecure jobs which consequently had less disposable income than white residents. Because the rental market was so small and the city's better housing was quite expensive, they couldn't afford it which is why the were pushed into slums or living with others. Landlords profited from the huge demand for housing because the supply of black appropriate housing was not adequate to the demand. GB

During World War 2 and then afterwards, black migrants settled into the Lower East Side, with the poorest part nicknamed The Black Bottom with the densely packed 19th century frame homes built by poor European immigrants. To the north of this was Paradise Valley, was Detroit’s Black citizen’s commercial center and where a third of the black population lived. There were religion and churches, social uplifting organizations, and businesses. However, it was overcrowded and had disease and crime. The houses there were very old and maintained poorly and without modern amenities by absentee landlords. Fires occurred mostly only in the Detroit’s black neighborhoods. In addition, sanitation and vermin were problems, with garbage only picked up once a week. -Francesca Maisano

African Americans in Detroit faced many issues. They were forced into the pouring paying jobs and most insecure jobs. They did not have equal housing opportunities like whites did in Detriot. Banks did not lent to black home buyers and ruled black neighborhoods to be dangerous risks for mortgage subsidies and home loans. So, African Americans were stuck in the worst housing in the segregated sections of the city.

The Coffin of Peace: The Containment of Public Housing

“The Coffin of Peace” mentioned by Sugrue is a metaphor for racial relations at the time of post World War II United States. The public housing market, which is unable to keep up with applicants, generally preferred white people over African Americans by large margins. This gave rise to competing ideologies within the New Deal era–“one calling for the provision of assistance to the disadvantaged, the other supporting expansion of opportunities for those who already had significant resources” (58). This split came between officials and reformers that were trying to “meet the needs of those whom the market failed to serve,” and homeowners who fought for and expected privileges for their economic and social stability. These subject of these battles between these differing groups of people was the viewing and understanding of New Deal policies. -C.Cary

From the 1930s to the 1950s, the federal government, city officials, and city reformers were trying to solve Detroit’s housing crisis in ways other than its private market, such as government-subsidized development, seen as eliminating slums and by social engineering “make better citizens.” In connection with New Deal liberalism, where acts were passed for providing public housing for the poor but there was also commitment to provide subsidies and loans for private homes, were debates locally on the implementation of these federal policies, as local governments had the final say. Liberal pro-housing advocates, such as city planners, labor organizations, and inner-city residents, contested with pro-private housing advocates, such as homeowners, real estate brokers, and housing developers, both lobbying and trying to influence officials to achieve what they believed was the main goal of the New Deal.

The Citizens’ Housing and Planning Council (CHPS) was a very influential pro-public housing organization devoted to improving the environment of the slums, thus improving public health and “uplifting the morale (62).” On the other side, the New Deal raised the expectations of working and middle-class homeowners, who welcomed and started to expect the government to provide them security. For better-off immigrants, it reinforced the idea of homeownership and family stability and for African-Americans the ideals of landownership and independence. Ultimately, public housing faced strong opposition Detroit’s housing reform was restrained. -Francesca Maisano

Part Two: Rust

The Meanest and the Dirtiest Jobs: The Structures of Employment Discrimination

This chapter takes aim at the racial inequality in post World War II Detroit industries such as, vehicle production, steel making, machine tool production, retail work, city employment, and construction labor (94). It begins by giving the story of an African American man (and veteran) Joseph May, and how he was repeatedly denied job applications from Dodge Main–with the excuse of the position has been filled or they werent hiring. This was obviously not the case, as they were offering applications to white men in front of Mr. Mays face. This highlights the growing racial problems within Detroit at this point in time. The problems being addressed are specifically: employment discrimination, racial practices within the workplace, and the structure of the labor market. These themes shaped the black employment model. As well as, people that brought racial perceptions and politics to the job (93).

Screening by Race: Employment Agencies and Ads- Until 1955, employers in Michigan could have preferred racial preferences when hiring. The Michigan State Employment Services actually reported on jobs that had “discriminatory clauses,” from 1946 to and through the 50's the percentage of jobs with discriminatory hiring practices was on the rise. However, even with demand on the rise and not being able to keep up, employers still would refuse to hire African Americans in many cases. Sugrue explained that some employers would rather bring in out-of-state employees than to hire blacks. Ads would even call for a preferred race of an employee for example, in Detroit's yellow pages calling for “colored” and “whites” for different positions. While this played a role in the racial disparity, there were more important factors that fueled that racial divides in Detroit. -C.Cary

African Americans and Jews were discriminated against in job opportunities as well as residential living opportunities. The Federal government red-lined areas of the Detroit to make up the ethnic population for there economic status. While this was happening, Cobo, who was elected mayor and helped establish the expressways, used many white home owners in means to provide for himself of votes. - Benny

The Damning Mark of False Prosperities: The Deindustrialization of Detroit

The hollowing of urban centers like Detroit was in part a symptom of new technologies. With the increasing prevalence of the car and truck, factories could be positioned further away from the urban center where property values were high. But, this was not the only reason for the phenomenon of decentralization. Decentralization was appealing to companies because it could be used to distance their factories from the powerful unions of the industrial cities and exploit the depressed wages in countryside. -Jason Elms

In general, two of the biggest factors driving industrial decentralization was industrialists using technological progress as a cudgel against union militancy and industrial desire to flee taxation. Detroit industrialists regularly and publicly decried the state of labor relations in the city. The common refrain was that labor was actively hostile to industry and refused to cooperate for the common good. Among labor leaders there was a consensus that labor relations after WWII and beyond were unusually hostile and gradually worsening. A second gripe often leveled against Detroit was that taxes were to high. City government was receptive to industry’s complaints over taxes and refrained from raising property taxes between the years of 1948 and 1958. However, tax rates in rural areas and small towns were still lower than in the city. Detroit was saddled with extensive and far reaching commitments to infrastructure and welfare programs which required high taxation to fund. Due to the inability of the city to lower taxation, industry fled. -Jason Elms

Industrial Job Loss and Economic Distress

Automation was the biggest driving force that caused Detroit’s economy to restructure after world War II and effected the whole of the city’s economy. From the late 1940s-1950s, many industries started to automate, with Ford leading the way. For manufacturers, automation meant more output but less labor costs. Industrialists saw automation as improving both workers’ conditions and standard of living, as it replaced humans with automated machines for dangerous tasks. However, automation could be used against workers, as it meant less control for them and their negotiated work rules and lessened the effects of worker-led slowdowns and sabotage. Upper management would retain the control. There was a decrease in employment due to decentralization and automation, which hurt the union’s strength. Employers downplayed this potential job loss when automating and were very optimistic, even disingenuous, about the effects of automation. While there was no evidence in the 1950s to suggest a nationwide decrease in jobs, local employment statistics, such as from Detroit, showed the opposite. There was some mitigation done, such as government funded education and contract provisions. -Francesca Maisano

With the advancements of Automation in car production, different manufactures had disproportionate advantages compared to other companies. General Motors and Ford since they had the capital were able to add more automation to their automobiles compared to some of the smaller manufacturers making them drastically more successful and leading to the other manufacturers dying out or merging companies.– Ellora Larsen

Forget about Your Inalienable Right to Work: Responses to Industrial Decline and Discrimination

Industrial Renewal

The City Plan Commission realized that the biggest issue with Detriot's economy was the industrial flight from the city which also was seen as the main cause of unemployment as well. Detroit Urban Leauge ran the most important employment agency for African Americans in Detriot from 1916 through the 1940s. The DUL had a pretty successful track record of getting people placed into stable jobs through out their experience even though it was a long and taxing process. The DUL assisted well-educated and highly skilled Blacks but also directed some resources to unskilled and poor workers as well but believed that the workers were unemployable and worked with them in bettering their skills instead of getting them jobs in the work force.– Ellora Larsen

The UAW's Lost Opportunity: The battle Against “Runaway” Jobs

Chapter 6, “Responses to Industrial Decline and Discrimination,” discusses the responses of a lot of groups to the loss of jobs. The UAW Local 600 was the only group in the city to quickly recognize the dangers decentralization posed the local economy; they would fight against it everywhere, including the courtroom, where they made a case based on contract law and the implicit right to work their union contract granted them. Unsupported by the full UAW, the case was dismissed by a judge. The city government worked hard but naively to keep industry in the city. Deciding that industry had left because there wasn’t enough space, the city started to clear land and zone it for industry, but the investment took years and paid off poorly. (Hunter Dykhuis)

Part Three: Fire

Class, Status, and Residence: The Changing Geography of Black Detriot

Due to the segregation of Detroit racial boundaries, African American entrepreneurs saw their opportunity to provide businesses and services for African American because it was mainly ignored by white businessmen. There became a separate sector of race businesses with the opening of Black-owned private hospitals, hotels, restaurants, and funeral homes. Since the post-war consumer culture was big, the establishment of these black businesses thrived due to the demand. – Ellora Larsen

In the spring if 1945, a civil suit against a middle-class black couple, the McGhees, was filed on the premise that they illegally moved into a strictly Caucasian neighboorhood and did not leave after being “kindly” asked to vacate the property. The suit eventually made it's way to the United States Supreme Court where the justices deemed it illegal for states to enforce restrictive covenants. This shows the harsh conditions for upwardly mobile black citizens because they had enough money to move away from the overly populated black areas, but they were not welcomed into the spacious white areas. GB

The maps on pages 184-187 show the effects of the Supreme Court's decision against restrictive covenants, specifically sectioning living spaces based on the premise of race. The 1940 map- which pre-dates the civil suit by five years- shows an overwhelming amount of black residents in one area with sparse residents elsewhere. The 1950 map shows the immediate effect of the civil suit and it shows the spreading of black residents upwards and outwards into the city. The 1960 map shows a spread from the previous decade within the same area as well as the southernmost tip of the city. However, the 1970 map shows an increasingly diffused city, with special attention to the left corner where there had been no black residents previously residing. GB

Pushing the Boundaries: Black Pioneers

Some African American families who were financially able to live in more affluent housing found the housing shortage to be extremely frustrating in Detroit. The rapidly growing African American bourgeoisie was among the first to push Detroit's racial boundaries. A separate system of businesses that catered to the African American population allied many people to make their own fortune off of the segregation like Hotelier A. g. Wright with his ownership of Detroit's Hotel Gotham. Edward Davis opened America’s first African American owned car dealership in Detroit. Sidney Barthwell owned a 10 store chain of pharmacies in African American neighborhoods that were ignored by the white firms. Detroit was also home to the nation’s 2 largest African American owned financial institutions: the Great Lakes Mutual Life Insurance Company and the Home Federal Savings and Loan Association. ~Morgan Gilbert

Since the city of Detroit was discriminatory to African Americans in public facilities, they decided to pen their own businesses that were black-owned. They opened private hospitals, hotels, restaurants and funeral homes. These people opening these businesses became successful and rich, which was uncommon for many African Americans during this time. In 1953, Detriot had the largest number of independently owned black businesses in any city in America.

The Open Housing Movement

The aspirations of the growing African American middle and upper class coincided the Civil Rights activists push for integrated neighborhood communities. They found a powerful ally in the Detroit Mayor’s Interracial Committee. The MIC was founded after the race riot of 1943 to help monitor and manage the racial tensions and violence between the city and the civil rights reform groups. After the victory in the court case of Shelley v. Kraemer, open housing advocates hoped to abolish residential segregation. The Coordinating Council on Human Relations (CCHR) was created in 1948 to persuade whites to support racial integration. The group primarily challenged the notion that integrated neighborhoods will lead to a decrease in property value among whites. ~Morgan Gilbert

The open housing movement in Detroit had an interesting religious dimension. The heads of Detroit’s religions were often in support of racial housing integration. However, the pleas of protestant religious figures often fell on deaf ears and any congregations present would swiftly flee a neighborhood which began to be integrated. The case was different with Catholics. Because of the more rigid territorial delineation of Catholic parishes, churches could not just pack up and move. This led to the Catholic hierarchy championing racial housing integration. The hierarchs’ views on race were not shared by the local parishioners and pastors who feared dropping property values and other racial prejudices. -Jason Elms

“Blockbusting” Real Estate Agents

Open housing groups created great public debates about integrated housing/ REal estate brokers played a critical role in the movement of African Americans into primarily white neighborhoods. Some like James Del Rio, the African American head of Associate Brokers, generally wanted to end racial segregation in neighborhoods. “Blockbusting” real estate brokers offered real opportunities for African Americans while maddening the white population. Members of the Detroit Real Estate Board were forbidden to change the racial character of the neighborhoods under their Code of Ethics. Blockbusters began by selling a single house in an all-white block to an African American family. Some would even pay and African American women to walk through all-white neighborhoods with her baby to stir suspicion of the African American “takeover” of a neighborhood. ~Morgan Gilbert

Blockbusting real estate brokers played both sides of the field. They offered real opportunities to blacks, but also caused panic among whites. This made a lot of the real estate brokers rich. Whites were in great panic because they did not want blacks moving into their all white neighborhoods. While blacks, wanted to live in nice housing and get out of the poor housing options in the segregated areas of the city. These brokers would manipulate blacks into walking in white neighborhoods which would cause the whites to think a African American “takeover” was happening. Or the brokers would manipulate the white families would lived near the borders of a predominantly black neighborhood.

"Homeowners' Rights": White Resistance and the Rise of Antiliberalism

Sugrue begins this chapter by re-counting Thomas Poindexter's rise to power as a member of the Common Council in Detroit in 1964. Poindexter was the representation for the majority of working and middle-class white home-owning population in Detroit. His racial ideologies were those of the white population during this time. White home-owners of Detroit were concerned with the growing population of blacks and concerned with the focus on public housing–which they opposed whole-heartedly. Sugrue states, “in reaction to the economic and racial transformation of the city, Detroit's whites began fashioning a politics of defensive localism that focused on threats to property and neighborhood.” Whites believed that the growing population of blacks would hurt “their stability economic status, and political power,” with that perception they would come together in effort to combat change in their areas. These homeownership, racial, and neighborhood issues of Detroit helped shape the post war era urban politics on a national level, according to Sugrue. -C.Cary

Class, Status, and Residence: The Changing Geography of Black Detroit

The chapter begins with a case study from the Wayne County Circuit court where a black family moved into a white neighborhood that was “protected” by restrictive covenants. Wayne County is not some anomaly; cities across America before the 1940s had restrictive policies on individual houses and who could reside in them. With the help and support of Civil Rights groups, like NAACP, eventually allowed the beginnings of integration in housing. As black people in Detroit were able to move out of the inner city and into white neighborhoods, the white residents would flee. The black people moving into the fancier houses of post-World War II era were generally upper-class followed shortly by upper-middle-class factory workers (who got tenure or something at their plant giving them a higher salary than their coworkers). In order to finance housing purchases, realtors would give black people land contracts that were low risk for the investor and high profit. Land contracts meant that the real estate held onto the contract of the land and the resident would pay it off each month; if the resident defaulted, the real estate agent would evict them and find a new tenant. -K.Eastridge

Pushing at the Boundaries: Black Pioneers

Detroit's black population grew in the 1940s and 1950s boasting the largest number of independently owned black business of any US city. Detroit was home to two of the nation's largest black-owned financial institutions in the nation: the Great Lake Mutual Life Insurance Company and Home Federal Savings and Loan Association. ~ Deborah Hunnel

The Open Housing Movement

Civil Rights activists worked to gain equal housing for the African-American population of Detroit. Organizations such as Detroit's Mayor Inter-racial Committee was founded to monitor racial tensions. The Coordinating Council on Human Relations wanted to persuade racial integration for moral and economic reasons. Religious leaders banned together to call for racial harmony. Rabbi Morris Adler, Reverend G. Merrell Lenox, and Edward Cardinal Mooney issued a joint call for integration. ~ Deborah Hunnel

“Blockbusting” Real Estate Agents

Real estate brokers assisted Detroit’s black population in pushing racial boundaries and moving into formerly all-white neighborhoods. Some genuinely believed in the cause of open housing and racial integration, but others were motivated by economic opportunity. The latter, “blockbusting” real estate brokers, worked both sides: the black population who wanted to own their own homes and the white homeowners who feared, dreaded, and panicked about racial integration. They would cause suspicion of “black residential takeover” through such ways as selling a house to a black family or with even more aggressive, persistent ways such as giving out leaflets and urging white homeowners to sell. Then, they would buy the homes at below-market prices and offer African-Americans in awful inner-city housing the chance to. They would sell these homes to them at an increased markup. These blockbusting speculators would act as lenders to African-Americans, who could often not get conventional financing. Charging high down payments and interest rates, black home buyers would buy land contracts, an arrangement that offered a high profit and low risk for the speculators. Efforts to stop blockbusting in the early 1960s, such The Fair Neighborhoods Practices Ordinance passed in 1962, were unsuccessful (194-197). -Francesca Maisano

Separation by Class

In the 1950s and 1960s, the scarcity of housing options and high prices that speculators charged meant that blacks with higher incomes were the first to move into transitional neighborhoods. Working-class blacks followed shortly thereafter and did not have as good an understanding of homeownership and often had to rely on boarders and other families to help meet monthly payments. Deference of property maintenance posed major problems because so many new black neighborhoods consisted of much older houses. Housing values began to fall and most of the black neighborhoods were unstable. This, in turn, caused even more spatial segregation of blacks by class. A gap between transitional and ghetto areas was especially asserted in the 1960s, blacks who lived in former all-white neighborhoods earned significantly more money than residents of majority black counterparts. The black population of Detroit was greatly influenced by economic status, further segregating African Americans within the city. - Devin Wright

Status and Conflict

The deepening division in Detroit’s black population was also because of the long-existing “status and class consciousness.” In 1940, elite black Detroiters were already living in elite neighborhoods such as Conant Gardens, which expanded after the war. These wealthier African American families also started to move into large homes that once were inhabited by white families who had moved into the suburbs. They viewed other areas as “slums”, moving away from the city center. The wealthier African Americans, like the wealthier white citizens, tried to keep their neighborhoods exclusive, through such things as covenants, zoning, and associations. Among the middle and lower classes there were also divisions and higher-status housing. Those moving to formerly all-white neighborhoods wanted to disprove negative racial stereotypes by distancing themselves from the poor by moving away from poorer, black neighborhoods. Like Detroit’s white middle-class population, they wanted to live in peace, without crime and disorder, and to not live in overcrowding. Though, not all of Detroit’s black middle-class shunned the poor, choosing not to move or, if moving, keeping in touch with their old neighborhoods. (203-207) -Francesca Maisano

“Homeowners' Rights”: Whiter Resistance and the Rise of Antiliberalism

The Rise of the Homeowners' Movement

Homeowners Associations became popular in Detroit with at 192 organizations founded between 1943 and 1965. The organizations were mainly self-help groups interested in the American idea of homeownership. The represented those who saw themselves as independent and stable rather than individuals who were temporary or dependent on society. Although Homeowners Associations became a means to keep out ethnically undesirable groups, originally they were developed to enforce building restrictions, restrictive covenants, and zoning laws. `Deborah Hunnel

In the mid 1900's, Detriot had 192 neighborhood organizations in the city. They were known by different names, but were essentially HOA's. These organizations guarded the investments their members made in purchasing their homes. They defended neighborhood, home, family, women, and children against social disorder from inside the city.

Homeowners' Rights versus Civil Rights

Racial attitudes were passed to the children of the 1940s, this is shown through essays written in a sixth-grade classroom of all white students. The essay topic was “Why I like or don't like Negroes,” and the answers were overwhelmingly about violence and cleanliness. Some answers were: “they are mean,” “they are not very clean,” “they leave garbage in the yard and it smells,” and “they pick you up in the car and kill you at nite.” These answers are problematic because none of these children had ever lived near a black person or experienced any of the things they wrote. This shows how powerful propganda and the passing on of racial attitudes was because these children were fearful of black neighbors although they had never had any. GB

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Chapter 9: "United Communities are Impregnable": Violence and the Color Line

Sugrue's chapter begins with a case study of the Wilson family. In 1995, Easby Wilson had saved up enough money to purchase as house and decided to move his wife and son onto Dequindre Avenue. Despite the real estate agent assuring the Wilson family that the racial tensions of the all-white neighborhood were okay, upon the first steps of purchasing the house the Wilson family felt push-back. White residents felt like they had two options: to flee the neighborhood to outer suburbs and re-establish an all-white neighborhood, or to fight for the “purity” of their neighborhood. Upon the Wilson family's move in on April 26, they were immediately attacked. Local police were sent to keep a 24-hour protection service, yet violence and disruption still carried on. It got so bad that their son was having difficulties sleeping due to panic attacks and Easby Wilson was having heart troubles. With that, they were forced to move out of the neighborhood in order to save their sanity and safe-being. -K.Eastridge

Although Wilson knew of the racially motivated violence against his people during this time, he did not know of the powerful knew homeowner's association that was created to resist the black invasion of their neighborhoods. They quickly learned that the association had harassed white homeowners for selling their homes to black people and they also drove out several black families from the neighborhood. The white neighbors began to trespass on and damage their property, demanded that they sell their home, and picketed outside of their house at night in numbers reaching the 400s. This behavior went on for several months. These attacks were not random, they were political acts motivated by homeownership and their communities. GB

Fight or Flight: The Social Ecology of White Resistance

There was an extreme discrepancy between white and black news sources. Mostly out of a fear of inciting race riots and further aggression, the white news sources did not comment on the racial tension found in its communities. The Detroit Mayor's Interracial Committee, when asked about racial tensions in Detroit, said that there no racial incidents reported despite the news of families like the Wilson Family being reported to them. Black run news sources insured that their readers new of the horrific conditions of those who attempted to move into white neighborhoods as it was the reality of many of the readership. The white people outside of these neighborhoods were, according to Sugrue, oblivious to the numerous attacks on the black residents of these neighborhoods. -K.Eastridge

Defended Neighborhoods

Violence against black residents in primarily white neighborhoods ran rampant from the 1950s to the 1970s. The powerhouses of all of the aggression were the homeowner associations of these neighborhoods. Sugrue identifies the top three influential associations in Detroit: The Northeast Side (Courville District and Seven Mile-Fenelon Improvement Association), The Wyoming Corridor (the Ruritan Park and De-Witt Clinton), and the Lower West Side (The Property Owner's Association). Comparing the three areas in Detroit, Sugrue found that almost all districts were predominately Roman Catholic with median incomes higher than the city average with the percentage of craftsmen workers being higher than over neighborhoods as well. The neighborhoods were also generally made up of single-family homeowners and located no where near industrial centers. With that in mind, Sugrue paints a clear picture of the blue-collar, white families that lived there. -K. Eastridge

Undefended Neighborhoods

Neighborhoods physically close to black neighborhoods could not stop realtors speculating and encouraging panic selling. The Lodge Freeway was constructed in the 1940s, devaluing homes and causing white homeowners to take flight and sell or rent their homes to black families, reducing resistance to black movement. Jewish neighborhoods also had racial transition. Black families moved into the Twelfth Street area experiencing little violence, with white homeowners “apathetic”, “resigned”, and planning to move (pg. 243). However, there was still the same racial prejudice as in other parts of the city, as well as tension. This lack of resistance was seen in older Jewish neighborhoods. They were worried that barring techniques could be used on them. Mainly, though, Jews had an easier time fleeing, as that had a lower rate of homeownership than Christians, with more mobile institutions than Catholic parishes, and sympathized with black civil rights, speaking of a shared history of oppression. Finally, middle-class and upper-class white neighborhoods were less violent, as they were “less attached to their neighborhood” and were financially able to move to the suburbs, where they could get new styles of homes with modern amenities. These suburbs were also defended, “exclusive” communities, with covenants and restrictive municipal boundaries and zoning. (pg. 241-246) -Francesca Maisano

The first three black residents were met with violence, solely toward their homes, when moving into the neighborhood. The difference between the Jewish and white neighborhood was that the attackers where children who did not belong to a racist improvement group. Aside from this incident, the movement of black residents into this neighborhood was peaceful and city officials were not aware of any anti-black improvement groups that existed within this community. In fact, Jewish residents were the least likely to organize against black newcomers. GB


The Detrioters that were unable or unwilling to leave their neighborhoods saw black insurgence of their neighborhoods as a war. In the “defended” neighborhoods, white residents formed organizations with the main goal of containing the black population of Detroit. These organizations doubled as social clubs and neighborhood militias. One of the most important roles was to mark the city's racial borders and make them known. They did this by instilling fear in the black residents through threats and violence. An example of a threat used was, “negroes moving here will be burned, signed neighbors. They even went as far as posting “all white” and “whites only” signs as if to reinstate earlier segregation. GB

sugrue_origins_of_the_urban_crisis.txt · Last modified: 2019/04/26 14:44 by gbanish