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Before the Riot - Deindustrialization in Postwar Detroit

Before the Riot - Deindustrialization in Postwar Detroit

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Published by phikapbob
A ten-page research paper analyzing the economic factors that led to the decentralization of Detroit's industrial base in the postwar period leading up to the riots of 1967.
A ten-page research paper analyzing the economic factors that led to the decentralization of Detroit's industrial base in the postwar period leading up to the riots of 1967.

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Published by: phikapbob on Dec 22, 2009
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11/23/2012

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Before the Riot:
The Economic Forces of Urban Deindustrialization in Post-War Detroit
 – 
1945 to 1967Robert G. MoreoWayne State UniversityECO 6800: Urban & Regional EconomicsDecember 21, 2009
 
Moreo|
1Introduction:
In the early morning hours of July 23
rd
, 1967, white Detroit Police officers raided a
“blind pig” after 
-hours club in an impoverished, African-American part of town
 – 
expecting tofind a handful of people drinking illegally. They stumbled into a large party, celebrating thereturn of some friends from military service in Vietnam. The violence that unfolded over the
next few days is frequently cited by observers as the beginning of Detroit’
s long decline frombeing the 4
th
largest city in the U.S.
 – 
with a
reputation as the “Paris of the
Midw
est”
and the
“Arsenal of Democracy” – 
to a deserted and economically devastated city, struggling to remainin the top dozen American cities by population.What a closer investigation into the period following World War II reveals is that Detroitwas already a city on the decline before the midsummer violence of 1967. The industrial boomof the early 20
th
century and the promise of good-paying jobs for unskilled laborers had boosted
Detroit’s population from less than half a million in 1910 to over 1.5
million people in 1930.
Historians believe that the city’s population peaked close to 2 million people in the early 1950s,
only to drop rapidly from that point on, back down to pre-war levels by the end of the nextdecade.The decline of Detroit should rightly be attributed to a mixture of social, political,technological and economic forces that combined in ways unequaled elsewhere in America.
Because of the city’s unique reliance on a single industry, these forces hit Detroit harder than
they did other cities of the time. Federal housing and transportation policies would change in the1940s and 50s, spawning and subsidizing the growth of suburbs. Technology was changing themanufacturing industry, reducing the number of unskilled jobs available, and contributing to the
 
Moreo|
2
decentralization of automotive factories. Racial tension was boiling in Detroit, where themigrating Black population had exploded like in no other place in America; but to place the
 blame for Detroit’s unparalleled downfall on racial
animosity is to ignore twenty years of economic and political conditions which set the stage for the riot itself 
 – 
blaming a symptom forthe root cause of the disease.
Development:
When World War II ended in the summer of 1945, the city of Detroit was the 4
th
mostpopulous in the United States
 – 
 
an industrial powerhouse, dubbed “The Arsenal of Democracy”.Detroit’s automotive manufacturing facilities had been converted to produce tanks, airplanes,
and other military goods during the War, and blacks and other immigrants continued to flock tothe city in search of factory jobs. The federal government had declared there could be no racialdiscrimination in filling defense jobs, and thousands of blacks fled the Jim Crow South, boundfor Detroit. Between 1930 and 1950, the black population of Detroit would grow from 120,000(7.6% of total) to 300,000 (16.1% of total), surpassing the number of foreign-born immigrantsfor the first time.
This period of rapid change was not without conflict. Detroit’s black po
pulation hadswelled along with the rapid expansion of the automotive industry since 1910. In the eighteenmonths following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an average of 640 people a day moved toDetroit as wartime production ramped up
 – 
one in seven of them black. On June 20
th
, 1943,what started as a fist fight between groups of black and white youths on Belle Isle spilled into thestreets of Detroit, sparking riots that lasted three days.

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