The Way It Was - Detroit, The Arsenal of Democracy


Published:

1942 During World War II, Detroit was dubbed the Arsenal of Democracy, as factories cranked out combat machinery day and night. However, the influx into the city of thousands of workers resulted in a severe housing shortage. Many whites lived in close quarters, but in the African-American community, centered primarily in the Black Bottom neighborhood on the lower east side, overcrowding was particularly acute. Even though construction of the Brewster-Douglass projects expanded in the early '40s, adequate housing for blacks remained a problem. This photograph depicts a gathering of African-Americans in Cadillac Square protesting unsuitable living conditions. In the early '40s, the federal government decided to build homes designated for blacks in northeast Detroit, at East Nevada Street and Fenelon Avenue. Named after the abolitionist and women's-rights crusader Sojourner Truth, the project would accommodate 168 families. Opposition in the overwhelmingly white neighborhood was immediate and intense. The feds changed course and opted for white housing. When protests from civil-rights groups followed, it was decided to revert to the original plan. A racial melee broke out in February 1942 when black families started moving in. The Detroit police had a tough time containing the fighting, and the state police and the Michigan National Guard eventually were mustered to restore order. But it served only to put a lid on a tinderbox of fomenting racial tension. In June 1943, a full-fledged race riot broke out in Detroit, resulting in 34 dead, hundreds injured, and property damage in the millions. Today, the Sojourner Truth buildings still stand, although they've been extensively modernized.

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

The Way It Was

Better Made Snack Foods, 1971

Do Good

The Greater Detroit Philanthropy Awards are back with eight new recipients

AFP Interview Series: Nominee Tracy Utech

With over 20 years of experience, Utech and her team have championed funds that have seen benefit outside of Wayne State’s campus.

AFP Interview Series: Nominee Karen Smithbauer

A career as a preschool teacher and battle with breast cancer, ground Smithbauer's philanthropic efforts

An Hour with ... Faith Duede

Founder, Rocky Horror Preservation Society
Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Top Docs List 2018
  2. Memories of Miya
    Citizen Yoga founder, Kacee Must Leeb reflects on her sister’s suicide, its impact on her...
  3. Introducing the Piekie
    These cookie-shaped pies win big on-screen and off
  4. Mending Migraines
    Nausea, excruciating head pain, sensitivity to light and noise: The oppressiveness of the list of...
  5. The Sixth Man
    A youth basketball coach teaches lessons on and off the court
  6. Seeking Support
    Like many metro areas across the U.S., finding a therapist in and around Detroit can prove to be...
  7. Therapy in the Digital Age
    New innovations that revolutionize traditional approaches to counseling
  8. Author's Cuisine
    At M Cantina in Dearborn, Junior Merino is creating a new kind of Mexican cuisine that is...
  9. Food Recipe: Chili
    Michael Keys, of Red Crown in Grosse Pointe Park, shares his favorite chili recipe
  10. Seeing Clearly
    The co-founders behind Genusee on making eyewear with a mission