Originally published 08/09/2013
Nathaniel Popkin is the author of Song of the City: An Intimate History of the American Urban Landscape.Perhaps no book has better clarified the story of 20th century urban decline than the 1996 Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton Press) by Penn historian Tom Sugrue. That book, which won the Bancroft Prize in 1998 and cemented Sugrue’s place among the top urban historians, illuminated the ways in which racism, federal policy, and corporate disinvestment combined to send Detroit—and dozens of other industrial cities—into freefall. Sugrue, who grew up in Detroit and lives in Mount Airy, is a careful observer of both his cities.
Originally published 07/22/2013
In 1945, Detroit was the American Dream.During World War II, the Detroit region was the center of American wartime production. The Willow Run factory near Ypsilanti, a few miles outside of Detroit proper, produced nearly half of the some 18,500 B-24 Liberator bombers built during the war. Ninety-one percent of all G.I. helmets were produced in Detroit. The city was home to the nation's first tank plant; a quarter of the nearly 90,000 tanks produced by the United States during the war were built in Detroit.That was the Detroit Tom Sugrue's parents and grandparents knew. But it was a city largely built on quicksand, reliant on the postwar auto industry for continued growth and which dealt with the large wartime influx of African American workers with discriminatory housing policies and at times brutal violence.The good times wouldn't last.
Originally published 07/21/2013
Once the dynamic heart of automotive America, the city of Detroit took the humbling step of filing for bankruptcy on Thursday – the largest U.S. municipality ever to do so. On Friday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder defended his decision to authorize the bankruptcy filing....The Globe’s Joanna Slater spoke with Thomas Sugrue, a historian at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit, an award-winning social history of the once-proud city, about its long decline....What are the most important factors that contributed to Detroit’s current mess?
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