Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination

Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination

by Herb Boyd


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NAACP 2017 Image Award Finalist

2018 Michigan Notable Books honoree

The author of Baldwin’s Harlem looks at the evolving culture, politics, economics, and spiritual life of Detroit—a blend of memoir, love letter, history, and clear-eyed reportage that explores the city’s past, present, and future and its significance to the African American legacy and the nation’s fabric.

Herb Boyd moved to Detroit in 1943, as race riots were engulfing the city. Though he did not grasp their full significance at the time, this critical moment would be one of many he witnessed that would mold his political activism and exposed a city restless for change. In Black Detroit, he reflects on his life and this landmark place, in search of understanding why Detroit is a special place for black people.

Boyd reveals how Black Detroiters were prominent in the city’s historic, groundbreaking union movement and—when given an opportunity—were among the tireless workers who made the automobile industry the center of American industry. Well paying jobs on assembly lines allowed working class Black Detroiters to ascend to the middle class and achieve financial stability, an accomplishment not often attainable in other industries.

Boyd makes clear that while many of these middle-class jobs have disappeared, decimating the population and hitting blacks hardest, Detroit survives thanks to the emergence of companies such as Shinola—which represent the strength of the Motor City and and its continued importance to the country. He also brings into focus the major figures who have defined and shaped Detroit, including William Lambert, the great abolitionist, Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown, Coleman Young, the city’s first black mayor, diva songstress Aretha Franklin, Malcolm X, and Ralphe Bunche, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

With a stunning eye for detail and passion for Detroit, Boyd celebrates the music, manufacturing, politics, and culture that make it an American original.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062346636
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 163,400
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Herb Boyd is a journalist, activist, teacher, and author or editor of twenty-three books, including his latest, The Diary of Malcolm X, edited with Ilyasah Al-Shabazz, Malcolm X’s daughter. His articles have been published in the Black Scholar, Final Call, the Amsterdam News, Cineaste, Downbeat, the Network Journal, and the Daily Beast. A scholar for more than forty years, he teaches African American history and culture at the City College of New York in Harlem, where he lives.

Table of Contents

Foreword Rev. Dr. JoAnn Watson ix

Introduction 1

1 Cadillac, "The Black Prince" 15

2 The Blackburn Affair 27

3 Black Abolitionists 35

4 Faulkner and Flames 43

5 Early Years of the Black Church 49

6 Black Arts in the Gilded Age 57

7 The Pelhams and the Black Elite 71

8 Detroit and World War I 91

9 Dr. Sweet and Mr. Ford 105

10 White Ball and the Brown Bomber 121

11 The Turbulent Thirties 127

12 Boom Town 139

13 Breakthroughs 159

14 From Motown to Showdown 175

15 A Brand-New Beat 179

16 Bing and Bang 185

17 March to Militancy 193

18 The Motor City Is Burning 201

19 Our Thing Is DRUM! 217

20 Under Duress from STRESS 225

21 Muses and Music 235

22 Coleman and Cockrel 245

23 Postindustrial Blues 253

24 A Mayor and Malice 271

25 Emergency, Resurgency 293

26 Kwame Time! 303

27 A Spark of Redevelopment 311

28 Dhaka in Detroit 321

29 A Looming Chimera 333

Afterword Ron Lockett, Executive Director of the Northwest Activities Center 341

Author's Afterword 345

Author's Note: A San Remembers 349

Acknowledgments 353

Notes 357

Index 403

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