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Detroit's Cold War

The Origins of Postwar Conservatism

Colleen Doody

Publication Year: 2012

Detroit's Cold War locates the roots of American conservatism in a city that was a nexus of labor and industry in postwar America. Drawing on meticulous archival research focusing on Detroit, Colleen Doody shows how conflict over business values and opposition to labor, anticommunism, racial animosity, and religion led to the development of a conservative ethos in the aftermath of World War II. _x000B__x000B_Using Detroit--with its large population of African-American and Catholic workers, strong union presence, and starkly segregated urban landscape--as a case study, Doody articulates a nuanced understanding of anticommunism during the Red Scare. Looking beyond national politics, she focuses on key debates occurring at the local level among a wide variety of common citizens. In examining this city's social and political fabric, Doody illustrates that domestic anticommunism was a cohesive, multifaceted ideology that arose less from Soviet ideological incursion than from tensions within the American public._x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: The Working Class in American History


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Title Page, Copyright

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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

This manuscript marks the end of a long and intellectually arduous process. It began as a work on American anti-Communism during the early Cold War. However, at the suggestion of the editors of the Working Class in America series at University of Illinois Press, I rewrote the book to focus instead on the roots of twentieth-century American conservatism. Their suggestion made a great deal of sense at this...

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pp. 1-8

One evening during the late 1940s, a Catholic housewife on the east side of Detroit knocked on the doors of the eighteen families on her block. This woman had decided that she could no longer stand idly by while Communism threatened the United States and the Catholic world. Vowing to fight godless Marxism with prayer, she asked all the families on her block to gather together once a week to pray the...

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1. New Deal Detroit, Communism, and Anti-Communism

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pp. 9-18

Anti-Communism, which became a key part of modern conservative ideology, was a central component in postwar political culture. In order to understand Cold War anti-Communism in Detroit, it is important to provide some context on the city of Detroit, New Deal labor, and the Communist Party. As late as 1900, fewer than three hundred thousand people lived in Detroit. However, mass production...

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2. Labor and the Birth of the Postwar Red Scare, 1945-1950

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pp. 19-45

On October 7, 1945, Detroit News reader Dorothy A. Riis wrote a letter to the editor complaining about the “general strike trend in this nation.” She argued that the 30 percent wage increase that the strikers wanted was part of a larger Communist campaign to convince the public to support “complete control by our Government over all private enterprise.” The Communist Party, in conjunction with...

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3. Race and Anti-Communism, 1945-1952

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pp. 46-75

In February 1952, Coleman Young, the executive secretary of the left-led National Negro Labor Council (NNLC), defiantly testified before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) when it came to Detroit to investigate Communism in defense industries. While many witnesses shrank before HUAC’s harsh light, Young attacked the committee for targeting local black leaders and for being led by...

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4. Anti-Communism and Catholicism in Cold-War Detroit

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pp. 76-92

On May 1, 1947, more than five thousand men met on a sidewalk in front of a church in downtown Detroit just as office workers were leaving for the day. At 5:00 p.m., the men knelt, despite the driving rain, and began to pray the rosary. These members of the Detroit Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men complained...

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5. Business, Anti-Communism, and the Welfare State, 1945-1958

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pp. 93-118

In January 1943 a group of top General Motors executives gathered together to discuss the corporation’s plans for the postwar period. Flush with their wartime profits and power, these businessmen might have been expected to gloat in victory. Big business, after all, flourished during the war, averaging a net income during the three years of war production of $22 billion before taxes. As a result...

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pp. 119-124

During the 1940s, no organized conservative movement existed. Conservatives, as one scholar in the field has said, were “scattered, few in number, almost as philosophically divided as the predecessors from whom they drew inspiration.”1 Yet, as this work has shown, conservative ideas were gaining prominence in the United States. While national politics largely hewed to the principles of the New...


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pp. 125-160

Works Cited

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pp. 161-168


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pp. 169-175

About the Author, Further Reading, Production Notes, Back Cover

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p. 176

E-ISBN-13: 9780252094446
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252037276

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: The Working Class in American History
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OCLC Number: 823896943
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Detroit's Cold War

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Politics and government -- 20th century.
  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Cold War -- Social aspects -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History.
  • Conservatism -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • Anti-communist movements -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • Working class -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • Catholics -- Political activity -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • Businessmen -- Political activity -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • Political culture -- Political activity -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
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