Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Prologue to the 2017 Printing

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pp. ix-xx

Back in 2001, in the first printing of this book, I argued most forcefully that if one wanted really to comprehend the fate of America’s inner cities over the course of the postwar period, one had to begin by fully understanding what had happened in the Motor City. Detroit, I had maintained, was in fact ground zero for any scholar seeking to make sense of why cities across the nation that had seemed to be synonymous with economic opportunity and prosperity in the 1950s became, by the 1960s, the epicenter of countless rebellions for greater racial equality and, then, by the 1980s, bastions...

Notes to the Prologue to the 2017 Printing

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pp. xxi-xxii

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxiii-xxvi

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Introduction: Reassessing the Fate of Postwar Cities, Politics, and Labor

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pp. 1-8

In the wee hours of July 23, I967, urbanites took to the streets of Detroit in an uprising that stunned the nation. For days, Detroit's poorest neighborhoods burned, and virtually overnight the city came to symbolize America's inability to solve vexing problems of race and poverty. Almost exactly three years later, a thirty-five-year-old African American autoworker named James Johnson Jr. walked into the Detroit auto plant where he worked and proceeded to shoot and kill two foremen and one die setter in retaliation for numerous racially based offenses that he believed he had long endured....

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1. Beyond Racial Polarization: Political Complexity in the City and Labor Movement of the 1950S

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pp. 9-27

James Johnson Jr. was born on May 28, I934, in Starkville, Mississippi, to twenty-year-old James Johnson Sr. and fifteen-year-old Eleanor "Edna" Hudson. 2 For these young parents, the grinding poverty that had come as such a shock to many northerners in the I930s was nothing new. From the moment that each was physically able, they had labored as sharecroppers on an I,800-acre estate owned by the family of ex-Confederate officer Hubbard Turner Saunders. And although they were delighted by the birth of James Junior, trying to provide for the new family unit only made James and Edna's lives more difficult. 3...

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2. Optimism and Crisis in the New Liberal Metropolis

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pp. 28-47

By I960, James Johnson Jr. had been in Detroit for seven years, but he still made too little money to live on his own. One of the perks of his new job at the Scotch and Sirloin, however, was that it enabled him to take cooking classes at Chadsey High School. The six-month course cost over $I50, and the restaurant deducted the money from Johnson's paychecks. After completing the course and getting his cooking certificate, Johnson stayed at the restaurant making $80 a week until December I964, when he had a fight with a waiter named Horace Hunter over a customer's order. In this...

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3. Driving Desperation on the Auto Shop Floor

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pp. 48-70

After moving back to Detroit on March 7, I965, James Johnson Jr. got a job at Michigan Drum, a small company owned by a man named Harold Hoffman. Johnson made $80 a week working in pit burn drums with rubber cement that he scooped up with a shovel. This job was physically grueling because the pit was extremely hot, and the shoveling required in it was very strenuous. All but two of the workers at this low-paying and dirty facility were black, and the supervisor was white. This supervisor did not get along with the black workers at all, and he made Johnson in particular feel...

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4. Citizens, Politicians, and the Escalating War for Detroit’s Civic Future

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pp. 71-102

As the Motor City and its auto plants slowly lurched toward social and political chaos between 1964 and 1967, James Johnson Jr. continued to go to work every day at Michigan Drum. Because he still made too little money to buy his own home, Johnson lived with various family members over the next two and a half years, including his sister Marva and his first cousin Maggie Foster Taylor. 2 Maggie was born in 1927 in Crawford, Mississippi, very near Starksville. 3 She had known Johnson since his birth, and it was her brother's lynching that had such a profoundly disturbing impact on him. Maggie had moved to Michigan in 1953. She managed to buy a home in July 1963, and...

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5. Workers, Officials, and the Escalating War for Detroit’s Labor Future

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pp. 103-127

As Detroit became increasingly conflict-ridden after its urban uprising in 1967, James Johnson Jr. was finally realizing his dream of attaining a job in an auto plant. On May 8,1968, Johnson began working at Chrysler's Eldon Avenue gear and axle plant, and although he had applied for the position of janitor,2 Chrysler hired him to be a conveyor loader, making $3.10 an hour. 3 Chrysler was running three shifts around the clock, and it needed as many unskilled line workers as it could get.

Johnson's main task at Eldon Avenue was to feed six brake shoes a minute into a 380-degree oven while standing...

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6. From Battles on City Streets to Clashes in the Courtroom

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pp. 128-158

While Detroit's residents and its auto plant workers were buzzing about the murders committed by James Johnson Jr., the accused sat in the Wayne County jail awaiting his trial for first-degree murder. Although Johnson was but one of many autoworkers who recently had exploded violently on Detroit's shop floors, his shooting spree attracted national media attention because it so dramatically symbolized the chaos that still enveloped America's urban centers and plants, even after civic leaders had extinguished the fires...

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7. From Fights for Union Office to Wildcats in the Workplace

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pp. 159-191

After James Johnson's dramatic murder trial, Judge Robert Colombo placed him in the custody of the Michigan Department of Mental Health. As he was bounced between various institutions thereafter, Johnson had no idea that his criminal trial had played such a key part in altering the course of Detroit's political history. A mere two years later, Johnson was unwittingly thrust into the political limelight once again, when a liberal hearing referee for the Workman's Compensation Bureau decided on a claim that he had filed against Chrysler Corporation during his incarceration at Ionia State...

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8. Urban Realignment and Labor Retrenchment: An End to Detroit’s War at Home

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pp. 192-216

While James Johnson's vindication within the workman's compensation system meant a great deal to auto workers, to Johnson, inside the Ionia State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, it meant very little. After May 26, 1971, Johnson was bounced between three mental institutions: the Center for Forensic Psychiatry (CFP), Ionia, and the Ypsilanti State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Although he connected with the outside world for a moment when his compensation award was announced, by and large, he remained removed from society.4 But while little changed in Johnson's life...

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Conclusion: Civic Transformation and Labor Movement Decline in Postwar Urban America

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pp. 217-223

Anyone looking out the window of a city bus headed downtown on Detroit's Grand River Avenue in 1985 might easily think that, mysteriously, he or she had been transported back to World War II and bombed-out Berlin. Every block passed held boarded-up storefronts, vacant lots where houses once stood, and homeless people searching in piles of rubble for wood and other salvageable items. Even such formerly vibrant sites as factories and union halls looked empty, as if evacuated in an emergency. But if one got off of that bus, perhaps to go into a school or to conduct business at a bank, Detroit's...

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Epilogue

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pp. 224-228

Just as Detroit's dramatic civic and labor movement transformation between I973 and I985 was rife with irony-primarily because those who won the wars for urban and shop-floor control had paid such a high price for their victory-so was James Johnson's life over this period.

Any hope that Johnson would finally get real help for his serious emotional problems by being institutionalized was never realized. From virtually the moment that he entered Michigan's mental health system, the two psychiatrists with whom he had the most regular contact were Dr. Lynn Blunt...

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Notes from the Author

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pp. 229-232

Every history book begins with a set of questions that an author feels is particularly worthy of greater attention and investigation. This book is no different, although perhaps the questions that fueled its creation are more closely linked to my own history than most. My desire to understand Detroit dates back to the late 1970s, when I was growing up in the city and was a student at Cass Technical High School in the heart of downtown. Because I loved living in the city, I often wondered why it was that most of the suburban white kids I knew were so vocal about their hatred of Detroit as well...

Notes

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pp. 233-278

Index

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pp. 279-295