Loss Of Auto Jobs Slams Detroit’s Black Middle Class

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From the Detroit Free Press:

From 1910 into the 1930s, the black population of Detroit rose more than 600% — double the rate of nearby Cleveland and four times faster than the increase in Chicago.

Nobody was moving here for the weather. The influx of people to Detroit — the city tripled in size during the same period to a population of about 1.5 million — was about jobs, mainly in the auto industry, after Henry Ford made his famous offer of $5 a day.

Among the many side effects of the assembly line was the rise of the American middle class and, in Detroit more than anywhere else, the creation of a black middle class. While segregation and racism were obstacles, Detroit became a place where good factory wages enabled African Americans to afford homes and cars; where black businesses could start up with ready customers and where succeeding generations had a measure of upward mobility. Hundreds of African-American professionals, businesspeople and academics owe their start to parents or grandparents who were able to make a decent living in Michigan’s auto plants.

That avenue to the proverbial American dream has now been largely closed off by the disappearance of job opportunities at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler and the many industry supplier firms.

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