cover image Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination

Black Detroit: A People’s History of Self-Determination

Herb Boyd. Amistad, $27.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-234662-9

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. (June)