Detroit Myth Busters: Researchers Illuminate, Challenge City’s Civil Rights and Post-War History

A new website provides insights into the city’s civil rights history. And a new book looks at the elusive post-war boom of 1950s Detroit.

Jake Neher/WDET

Civil rights and the black power movement in Detroit

What do you know about Detroit’s civil rights history? What have you always wondered about that time period? There’s a new effort to tell and preserve the stories of Detroit’s civil rights pioneers, and it’s taking the form of an online resource called Rise Up Detroit, that’s launching today.

Peter Blackmer, a lead researcher for Rise Up North and a research fellow at Wayne State’s Detroit Equity Action Lab, partnered on the project with civil rights activist and founder of Rise Up North Junius Williams. 

The website incorporates research and materials from Wayne State’s Reuther Library and other local sources to recount narratives of resistance through written, oral and visual materials from the civil rights and black power movements in Detroit.

Blackmer and Williams join Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about the project.

Jake Neher/WDET

The myth of the post-war boom in Detroit

Henderson also speaks with author Daniel Clark about his new book, which looks at the elusive post-war boom in 1950s Detroit. 

As the story goes, the 1950s were a golden age of prosperity for auto workers in Detroit. High wages. Generous benefits. It all catapulted many workers to a thriving blue-collar middle class.

However, Clark says that’s largely myth. He says it fails to address the conditions of that work and the instability those conditions created for auto workers and their families.

His book, “Disruption in Detroit: Challenging the 1950s Prosperity Myth,” unpacks the narrative around postwar Detroit and separates the fact from fiction.

Clark will be speaking Tuesday at Marygrove College for their Institute for Detroit Studies’ 44th Defining Detroit event.

Click on the audio player above to hear those conversations.


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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.