As I sit down to write this, the world around us is going through a reckoning with racism and a crisis of capitalism, all while navigating a world wide pandemic. With so much going on, it can be difficult to wrap your brain around the causes and impacts of one of these events, let alone all three of them.
Luckily, we’re not totally helpless in our quest to understand whats going on. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme and we live in a city whose historical melody sounds very similar to today’s. Few cities have a history that better prepares us for the present than Detroit, whose citizens have survived pandemics, protests, rebellions, and a Great Depression.
If you’re looking to get a perspective on today’s climate through the Detroit lens than check out these pieces below:
Facing a Pandemic: 101 years ago: When the Spanish flu ravaged Detroit: Jocelynn Brown
The Spanish Flu hit Detroit hard. Its first case arrived at the docks of the Ford Rouge Plant and spread through the city rapidly taking the lives of automotive tycoons, factory workers, and citizens of all stripes throughout the city. This article takes you through the Spanish Flu’s run through Detroit and what the city did to slow it. An added bonus are the images of newspaper front pages that allow you to see what else was going on in the world each day.
An Economic Collapse: Detroit Crashes, The Motor City During The Great Depression: Tim Kiska
Its easy to forget that Detroit was once the engine of the economy. As powerful as it was, when the Great Depression hit Detroit, it hit hard. On the Detroit History Podcast episode “Detroit Crashes, The Motor City During The Great Depression,” host Tim Kiska takes the focus of the economic collapse off of Wall Street and places it on Griswold Street in Downtown Detroit, where the nation’s banking collapse began.
Emerging from Unrest: Detroit: I Do Mind Dying A Study in Urban Revolution: Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin
Following the 1967 uprising, Black automotive workers in Detroit took their message from the neighborhoods and brought it into the factory, organizing to change the power structure in American manufacturing. Their victories and defeats are chronicled in “Detroit: I Do Mind Dying”, serving as an example of what works and what doesn’t when you try to translate protest into material change.