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Belgians in Michigan

Bernard A. Cook

Publication Year: 2007

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Michigan was home to the second-largest Belgian population in the United States, and Detroit had one of the largest Belgian populations in the nation. Although immigration declined after World War I, the Belgian- American community is still prominent in the state. Political, religious, and economic conditions, including a nineteenth- century economic depression, helped motivate the move to America. Belgians brought with them the ability and willingness to innovate, as well as a tradition of hard work and devotion. The Gazette van Detroit, a Flemish-language newspaper first printed in Detroit in 1914, continues to be produced and distributed to subscribers throughout the United States and overseas. Belgian-Americans continue to incorporate traditional values with newfound American values, enabling them to forever preserve their heritage.

Published by: Michigan State University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. 1-2

In 1960 Philemon D. Sabbe and Leon Buyse published Belgians in America. Their work provided an invaluable source for this account of the Belgians in Michigan. According to the website of the Genealogical Society of Flemish Americans...

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Belgian Immigration

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pp. 3-4

At the beginning of the twenty-first century there were 360,642 people in the United States who claimed Belgian heritage. Michigan, with 53,135 people who listed Belgium as their place of birth or the country from which their ancestors came...

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A Short History of Belgium

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pp. 5-9

Belgium is located in Western Europe. It is surrounded by the Netherlands, Germany, Luxembourg, France, and the North Sea. Its population is divided into three official national groups, six million Flemish, four million French-speaking...

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The Earliest Belgians in America

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pp. 11-15

Flemish and Walloon Protestants were with the Dutch who explored and settled New Amsterdam, and Belgian Catholic clerics were among the early explorers of the area of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi basin. Friar Louis Hennepin...

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Belgian Emigration to Michigan,1830-1870

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pp. 17-21

In the Flemish folk-park at Bokrijk in Limburg there has been a painstaking effort to reconstruct the social environment of Flemish peasants in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In those reconstructed dwellings from the poorest...

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Belgian Immigrants in Michigan,1860-1930

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pp. 23-50

A depression affected Belgium from 1873 until 1886. An increasing number of Belgians left for American in search of land or work. Many purchased cheap land around Bay City, Ecorse, Monroe, and Niles. However, America also experienced a depression...

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The Social World of the Belgians in Michigan

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pp. 51-59

The family and religion gave meaning to the life of the Flemish. In addition to family and immediate neighbors, for many Belgian immigrants their church and their saloon were centers of social interaction. According to Verthé, “out of those meeting places...

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Flemish Culture

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pp. 61-66

Throughout the nineteenth century and through the first half of the twentieth century, the Flemish experienced a second-class citizenship in their own country. When the independent Kingdom of Belgium was established in the 1830s, it was dominated...

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Leading Belgian Families in Michigan

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pp. 67-74

Francis Palms has been called “the most prominent figure in the history of Michigan.”111 While that claim is certainly debatable, he is clearly one of the more important figures in the economic and business history of the state. He was for a long time...

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Belgians in Michigan Today

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pp. 75-76

The Belgians, who came to Michigan during the height of Belgian immigration between 1901 and 1913, unless they were infants at the time, are no longer with us. Their children and grandchildren, as well as the descendants of earlier...

Appendix 1: Belgian Food

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pp. 77-82

Appendix 2: Bien (A Card Game)

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pp. 83-86

Appendix 3: Ethnic Organizations

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pp. 87-88


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pp. 89-97

For Further Reference

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pp. 99-101


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pp. 103-110

E-ISBN-13: 9781609170226
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870138126

Publication Year: 2007