Former Detroit News journalist Martelle (The Fear Within: Spies, Commies and American Democracy on Trial, 2011, etc.) explores the troubled city where he once worked.
The author shows how “no other American city has been gutted so deeply.” From its peak in 1950, Detroit has lost 60 percent of its population and many of its employment opportunities, a situation caused in part by auto-industry decline, racism and anti-unionism. The industry decentralized across the country before globalizing, and most of Detroit's population, where it could, left for the suburbs. Now Mayor Dave Bing wants to raze abandoned neighborhoods and seal them off from the rest of the city. Martelle's case study combines history, economic evaluation and firsthand accounts from individual Detroiters. The city was settled by the French about 75 years before the United States was founded and was a center of diversified industry before it became the heart of the auto economy between 1910 and 1929. It was also a center of industrial unionism during the New Deal and was synonymous with the “arsenal of democracy” in World War II. The city’s death warrant, writes Martelle, was signed when the industry converting back to auto production after the war failed to diversify. Now much of it is returning to meadows and pasture.
A valuable biography sure to appeal to readers seeking to come to grips with important problems facing not just a city, but a country.