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Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination
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HarperCollins 2017
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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.

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Street Date:
06/06/2017
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780062346643
ASIN:
B01I9B5466
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APA Citation (style guide)

Herb Boyd. (2017). Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Herb Boyd. 2017. Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination. HarperCollins.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Herb Boyd, Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination. HarperCollins, 2017.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Herb Boyd. Black Detroit: A People's History of Self-Determination. HarperCollins, 2017.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        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.

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fullDescription

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.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Washington Post
      • content:

        "Comprehensive and compelling... We owe [Boyd] a debt of gratitude." — Washington Post

        "A blend of memoir, love letter, history, and clear-eyed reportage that explores the city's past, present, future and its significance to the African-American legacy and the nation's fabric." — Detroit Free Press

        "Detroit has found its griot in Herb Boyd. Traditional West African storytellers, griots carry their people's traditions from generation to generation, and are renowned for their encyclopedic knowledge, their wit and their ability to bridge the past and present. In the tradition of the griot, Boyd's purpose is to celebrate the black men and women, the city's "fearless freedom fighters," who would otherwise remain on history's margins. The characters who walk across Boyd's pages are fascinating." — New York Times Book Review

        "Boyd...breathes new life into the history of Detroit through stories of the city's black residents from its earliest days to its bittersweet present... He leaves no stone unturned, making his work an invaluable repository of all that is black Detroit." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

        "An inspiring, illuminating book that will interest students of urban history and the black experience." — Kirkus Reviews

        "The extensive coverage demonstrates the full range and influence of black citizens in Detroit... Recommended for anyone interested in Detroit or in urban history." — Library Journal

        "Herb Boyd has done it again. Black Detroit is a powerful, timely, and important history of an iconic city whose hopes and dreams, triumphs and tragedies, continue to both challenge and shape the African American experience and American democracy. This brilliant history is a must read for students, scholars, and all those interested in the history of the civil rights movement and black freedom struggle." — Peniel E. Joseph, Author of Stokely: A Life

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from May 15, 2017
        Boyd (Baldwin’s Harlem) breathes new life into the history of Detroit through stories of the city’s black residents from its earliest days to its bittersweet present. True to its title, the book documents the display of black determination, a mix of ingenuity, courage, and persistence in the midst of discrimination and repression. Boyd aptly highlights the complexity of the city’s racial legacy from its earliest days. Detroit was neither a slaveholding territory nor fully free; he tells of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, who in 1831 escaped slavery in Kentucky for the promise of freedom in Detroit, only to be arrested in their new home two years later under the Fugitive Slave Act. A group of outraged black citizens rallied together to plan a jailbreak and secure the couple’s passage to Canada. By the 1920s, the city’s formerly small black population had ballooned into a bustling community, mainly due to Henry Ford’s $5 hourly wage, which attracted Southerners during the Great Migration. Boyd also examines the city’s black newspapers, Berry Gordy’s founding of Motown, and the fall from grace of the city’s youngest mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick. He leaves no stone unturned, making his work an invaluable repository of all that is black Detroit. 16-page b&w photo insert.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        May 15, 2017
        The history of the many contributions of African-American Detroit to the larger American project.If Paris, as the German critic Walter Benjamin put it, was the capital of the 19th century, then Detroit was surely the capital of 20th-century African-America. As native son Boyd (African-American History and Culture/City Coll. of New York; Black Panthers for Beginners, 2015, etc.), a respected author and journalist, recounts, this centrality dates back to the American Revolution but became pronounced at the time of the Civil War, when Detroit went from being an important station along the Underground Railroad to become an important source of abolitionism, industrialism, and sheer manpower for the war effort--including black soldiers bound for the Union ranks. As the author notes, however, the ascendancy of Black Detroit did not mean an end to racial tension; though he grew up on a block with Italian, Irish, and Jewish families, "our blackness was for our neighbors an object of derision and insult." Boyd celebrates the rising-above that accompanied this ethnic contest, the grit and determination that put Berry Gordy's Motown on the map, lifted the members of the Supremes and the Miracles from the projects, and ushered in a second black literary renaissance through the pens of Gwendolyn Brooks and Nikki Giovanni. As he reminds his readers, immigrants and exiles from other regions and countries did their parts to shape Black Detroit: Malcolm X lived there before moving to New York and taking a leading part in the radical wing of the civil rights movement, while Rosa Parks moved there from the South in 1957. "Parks's commitment to fight Jim Crow--North or South--was unrelenting," writes the author. Though the city has fallen victim since to outmigration, its population having fallen from 1.8 million in 1950 to about 670,000 today, Boyd writes confidently that the city's African-American population will be central to its revival, concluding, "I'm proud to be a Detroiter." An inspiring, illuminating book that will interest students of urban history and the black experience.

        COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        January 1, 2017

        Writer and historian Boyd blends memoir, history, and reportage in this consideration of the Motor City and its significance for black Americans.

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 1, 2017

        In his latest work, Boyd (The Diary of Malcolm X) covers more than 300 years' worth of Detroit history, from the arrival of the earliest African slaves in the early 1700s to the struggle to rebuild the city in the 2010s. The author traces the development of the city through the lens of its black citizens. In doing so, he covers the area's place on the Underground Railroad, the influx of blacks during the Great Migration in the early 20th century, and how civil rights-era demands for fair housing led to the exodus of white residents to the suburbs. Boyd also covers arts and culture, touching on prominent Detroiters such as boxer Joe Louis, religious leader Elijah Muhammad, and singer Aretha Franklin, and looking at the lasting influence of Barry Gordy and Motown. With a lot of history to cover in a relatively short amount of space, this book can feel rushed at times. However, the extensive coverage demonstrates the full range and influence of black citizens in Detroit. VERDICT Recommended for anyone interested in Detroit or in urban history.--Nicholas Graham, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

        Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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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...

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      • description: Social Science / Ethnic Studies / African American Studies