29 June, 2009

G.M., Detroit and the Fall of the Black Middle Class

"They were among some six and a half million African-Americans who left the South from 1910 to 1970 in what became known as the Great Migration. They were drawn to the North by the promise of equal treatment but also by the hope of finding work: the mechanization of agriculture, in particular the advent of the cotton picker, decimated black employment in the South. As Nicholas Lemann wrote in his 1991 book, “The Promised Land,” what in fact awaited most blacks was a more subtle form of discrimination. But in Detroit at least, there were the auto plants. Ford started hiring African-Americans in 1914, offering them the same $5-a-day wage it paid its white employees, even as it limited them to sweeping the floors and pouring hot steel in sweltering foundries. To discourage African-American employees from improving their lot by unionizing, the company offered free coal to ministers of black churches who preached the Ford gospel."

Read the entire article here.


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