Address Racial Disparity in Detroit – Past and Present – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Address Racial Disparity in Detroit – Past and Present

“Slavery Is Detroit’s Big, Bad Secret. Why Don’t We Know Anything About It?” by Bill McGraw

I chose an article authored by writer who works at my current site, Deadline Detroit. Within the article, McGraw addresses the “collective amnesia” of the North in relation to slavery, and more specifically, Detroit. Detroit’s current makeup seems to be rooted in the labor of slaves. Various streets, including Macomb, Campau, Beaubien, McDougall, etc. were named after slave owners. The wealthiest segment of French society in Detroit owned slaves, and disproportionately produced the area’s livestock. Compared to the South’s 33% of the population comprising of slaves, Detroit was relatively smaller, at 10% of the population being comprised of slaves. Yet, though small, the article acknowledges this history should not be forgotten or erased. Interestingly enough, the article also delves into the history of Native American enslavement within Detroit. My favorite line from the article stated, “Slaves died, often young, and were buried in graveyards that were soon forgotten, and then paved over by later generations of Detroiters, and their bones remain underfoot in America’s blackest big city, and their stories continue to be unknown in a region where race always has been a consuming issue.” I found this line to be particularly striking, especially considering the new influx of white individuals populating the predominantly black city. I am hoping we can continue to better understand the impact of slavery on the psyche, economy, and social relations of America. I am grateful to be reading this article on the Fourth of July, a day in which we hope to one day reach the ideals America was founded upon: liberty, freedom, and justice for all.

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