Detroit: A Biography

Chicago Review Press
2
Free sample

Detroit was established as a French settlement three-quarters of a century before the founding of this nation. A remote outpost built to protect trapping interests, it grew as agriculture expanded on the new frontier. Its industry took a great leap forward with the completion of the Erie Canal, which opened up the Great Lakes to the East Coast. Surrounded by untapped natural resources, Detroit turned iron from the Mesabi Range into stoves and railcars, and eventually cars by the millions. This vibrant commercial hub attracted businessmen and labor organizers, European immigrants and African Americans from the rural South. At its mid-20th-century heyday, one in six American jobs were connected to the auto industry, its epicenter in Detroit. And then the bottom fell out.

Detroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America’s great cities, and one of the nation’s greatest urban failures. It tells how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from 1.8 million residents in 1950 to 714,000 only six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deep, thick seams of racism. And it raises the question: when we look at modern-day Detroit, are we looking at the ghost of America’s industrial past or its future?

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About the author

Scott Martelle, the author of The Fear Within and Blood Passion, is a veteran journalist and former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit News, whose work has also appeared in the Washington Post, Sierra magazine, and other outlets.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Chicago Review Press
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Published on
Dec 31, 2012
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781569765265
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / State & Local / Midwest (IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, ND, NE, OH, SD, WI)
Social Science / Sociology / Urban
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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As thoroughly examined as the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth have been, virtually no attention has been paid to the life of the Union cavalryman who killed Booth, an odd character named Boston Corbett. The killing of Booth made Corbett an instant celebrity who became the object of fascination and of derision.             Corbett was an English immigrant, a hatter by trade, who was likely poisoned by mercury. A devout Christian, he castrated himself so that his sexual urges would not distract him from serving God, which he did as a street evangelist and preacher. He was one of the first volunteers to join the US Army in the first days of the Civil War, a path that would in time land him in the notorious Andersonville prison camp. Eventually released in a prisoner exchange, he would end up in the squadron that cornered Booth in Virginia.             The Madman and the Assassin is the first full-length biography of Boston Corbett, a man who was something of a prototypical modern American, thrust into the spotlight during a national news event. His story also encompasses tragedy—his wife died when he was young, and he struggled with poverty and his own mental health—as it weaves through some of the biggest events in nineteenth century America.   Scott Martelle is a professional journalist and the author of The Admiral and the Ambassador, and Detroit: A Biography, and is an editorial writer for the Los Angeles Times.
Once America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neopastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists—all have been drawn to Detroit's baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier.
With an eye for both the darkly absurd and the radically new, Detroit-area native Mark Binelli has chronicled this convergence. Throughout the city's "museum of neglect"—its swaths of abandoned buildings, its miles of urban prairie—he tracks both the blight and the signs of its repurposing, from the school for pregnant teenagers to a beleaguered UAW local; from metal scrappers and gun-toting vigilantes to artists reclaiming abandoned auto factories; from the organic farming on empty lots to GM's risky wager on the Volt electric car; from firefighters forced by budget cuts to sleep in tents to the mayor's realignment plan (the most ambitious on record) to move residents of half-empty neighborhoods into a viable, new urban center.
Sharp and impassioned, Detroit City Is the Place to Be is alive with the sense of possibility that comes when a city hits rock bottom. Beyond the usual portrait of crime, poverty, and ruin, we glimpse a longshot future Detroit that is smaller, less segregated, greener, economically diverse, and better functioning—what could be the boldest reimagining of a post-industrial city in our new century.
Detroit City Is the Place to Be is one of Publishers Weekly's Top 10 Best Books of 2012
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