Week 9: Family History and Detroit – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 9: Family History and Detroit

Our group meeting Tuesday really got me thinking about my own family history and how it relates to Detroit. Our tour made me realize how relevant Detroit’s history has been to my life. The Italian side of my family came to Detroit from Pennsylvania to work in the auto factories and my dad’s parents met during college. My grandfather was a business man who owned a lumber yard on Greenfield Road and then bought another in Farmington Hills. I had never really thought much about it before, but during the tour, our guide talked about the low interest housing loans program that moved white people out of the city and continued white flight into the 50’s and 60’s. The lumber yard my grandfather bought built a lot of developments, but also a lot of homes that were fueled by the white flight from Detroit. My family was one one of the ones who benefited from the government program this way and started their own successful small business. This further made me think what Detroit would look like today had African Americans been able to do the same thing. There would undoubtedly be much less racial tensions and it is alarming to me as i begin to begin to truly understand the privilege I was born with and how it has been denied from others. Our tour guide then went on to discuss how Paradise Park was destroyed and all the black owned businesses were lost because of free way developments. I began to consider how that original group of businesses might be able to be recreated today though. That development gave African Americans a lot of independence and autonomy and the loss of all of the businesses can still be seen today. If that sort of independence could be replicated today though I feel like it could really help with a lot of stereotypes and divides in the city. The same way my family was able to take advantage of emigration out of the city 50 years ago, there are today a lot of opportunities with the revival of the city. These opportunities could mark a new era for equality in the city if they are extended to everyone.

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