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Abstract: In 1950, Detroit was the fourth largest city in the U.S., and one of its most successful. By the time the city filed for bankruptcy six decades later, it had become a symbol of racial segregation and industrial decline. This 30-min. documentary, available as a stand-alone video or as a 5-chapter multimedia case, explores the social, economic and political forces behind that transformation, and the crucial role that race played in shaping the city’s fate. Weaving together interviews with three Detroit experts who have experienced the city’s history firsthand and compelling archival footage, the video covers the birth of the auto industry, the booming 1950s, the white flight to the suburbs, racial segregation, the 1967 "riots", the mayoralty of Coleman Young, the city’s economic decline, and the scandals and urban decay of the early 2000s, culminating with the decision by the Michigan Governor to appoint an emergency manager in 2013.
Learning objective: This video/multimedia case can be used to discuss key issues in the evolution of many American cities, such as white flight, institutional racism and deindustrialization. The video can also be used to inform a class discussion about the historical factors that led to Detroit’s crisis and influenced the controversial decision to suspend local government in order to restore financial stability to the city.