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Detroit: The Black Bottom Community

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Between 1914 and 1951, Black Bottom's black community emerged out of the need for black migrants to find a place for themselves. Because of the stringent racism and discrimination in housing, blacks migrating from the South seeking employment in Detroit's burgeoning industrial metropolis were forced to live in this former European immigrant community. During World War I th Between 1914 and 1951, Black Bottom's black community emerged out of the need for black migrants to find a place for themselves. Because of the stringent racism and discrimination in housing, blacks migrating from the South seeking employment in Detroit's burgeoning industrial metropolis were forced to live in this former European immigrant community. During World War I through World War II, Black Bottom became a social, cultural, and economic center of struggle and triumph, as well as a testament to the tradition of black self-help and community-building strategies that have been the benchmark of black struggle. Black Bottom also had its troubles and woes. However, it would be these types of challenges confronting Black Bottom residents that would become part of the cohesive element that turned Black Bottom into a strong and viable community. Local historian Jeremy Williams combines careful research with archived photographs for insightful look at Black Bottom's early beginnings, its racial transformation, the building of a socioeconomic solvent community through various processes of institution building and networking, and its ultimate demise and the dislocation of its residents.


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Between 1914 and 1951, Black Bottom's black community emerged out of the need for black migrants to find a place for themselves. Because of the stringent racism and discrimination in housing, blacks migrating from the South seeking employment in Detroit's burgeoning industrial metropolis were forced to live in this former European immigrant community. During World War I th Between 1914 and 1951, Black Bottom's black community emerged out of the need for black migrants to find a place for themselves. Because of the stringent racism and discrimination in housing, blacks migrating from the South seeking employment in Detroit's burgeoning industrial metropolis were forced to live in this former European immigrant community. During World War I through World War II, Black Bottom became a social, cultural, and economic center of struggle and triumph, as well as a testament to the tradition of black self-help and community-building strategies that have been the benchmark of black struggle. Black Bottom also had its troubles and woes. However, it would be these types of challenges confronting Black Bottom residents that would become part of the cohesive element that turned Black Bottom into a strong and viable community. Local historian Jeremy Williams combines careful research with archived photographs for insightful look at Black Bottom's early beginnings, its racial transformation, the building of a socioeconomic solvent community through various processes of institution building and networking, and its ultimate demise and the dislocation of its residents.

30 review for Detroit: The Black Bottom Community

  1. 4 out of 5

    robin friedman

    A Visit To Detroit's Black Bottom Community The pictorial histories published by Images of America offer the opportunity to broaden one's perspective and to get to know some of the many wonderful communities in the United States. The Black Bottom community in Detroit, alas, is no more; but the community's history is preserved in this 2009 Images of America book, "Detroit: The Black Bottom Community" by Jeremy Williams. Although a great deal of information is available about African Americans in D A Visit To Detroit's Black Bottom Community The pictorial histories published by Images of America offer the opportunity to broaden one's perspective and to get to know some of the many wonderful communities in the United States. The Black Bottom community in Detroit, alas, is no more; but the community's history is preserved in this 2009 Images of America book, "Detroit: The Black Bottom Community" by Jeremy Williams. Although a great deal of information is available about African Americans in Detroit, Williams' book is unusual in its focus on Black Bottom. Black Bottom was located on Detroit's east side; the name "Black Bottom" is old and derives from the fertility of the soil in the area when it was still agricultural. In the late 1900's Black Bottom became home to a succession of immigrant groups. Beginning in 1914, Black Bottom became increasingly African American in demographics. The community was home to a large African American population from 1914 -- 1951, when the neighborhood was demolished by urban renewal projects. Black Bottom was adjacent to a related community known as Paradise Valley, which, unlike Black Bottom, would become famous as a center for music, clubs, and African American culture. In his short book of images and texts, Williams offers a history of Black Bottom. The book begins with a four-page written overview of the community (unusually long for an Images of America book) followed by images and commentary. The book's first chapter offers an unusual look at the German, Italian, Jewish, and Polish immigrants who began the settlement of Black Bottom and who lived in uneasy harmony among themselves and with the African Americans. With the Great Migration and WW I, African Americans migrated to Detroit in large numbers. With restrictions on their settlement, many African Americans lived in Black Bottom under increasingly crowded, unhealthy conditions in dilapidated housing. They struggled to find remunerative work in the factories and industries of Detroit. Williams focuses on the African Americans in Black Bottom from early in the 20th Century through both World Wars and through the Great Depression. The book offers many photographs of the streets, housing, and businesses in the community that are difficult to find in one place. The book includes many images of slum housing, of small businesses and of people -- including two young women of the many reduced to prostitution. With all the economic and social difficulty they experienced, Williams shows how the African Americans created a cohesive community though the work of local organizations, schools, and churches. Much of the book is devoted to the housing situation in Black Bottom. Many houses from the 1930s on were demolished and not replaced. In 1935, the Federal Government funded in Black Bottom the first housing development for African Americans known as the Brewster Projects. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Black Bottom to mark the beginning of the construction of this landmark program. Other housing projects proved more controversial. White residents in Detroit objected to the opening of the Sojourner Truth housing development to African Americans. Ultimately, African Americans were allowed to move into the development under heavy police guard. There were several riots in Black Bottom in the 1940s between whites and African Americans which resulted in loss of life and in the destruction of many homes and businesses. The local police tended to overlook the white role in the violence and to come down hard on the African American community. With all of the community's problems, Williams finds that Black Bottom had constituted a "tight-knit community that had stood as a living example of human will, courage, endurance, and strength". The last sections of the book document the destruction of Black Bottom, under urban renewal plans developed in 1946. The community was destroyed piecemeal and replaced largely by a freeway and by a park. I never had any contact with Black Bottom, but I was moved in learning about it and seeing images of the community and its people in Williams' book. I was grateful for the opportunity to learn about Black Bottom. Robin Friedman

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michele White

    I purchase this book last year and found it extremely informational...I gave it to someone who grew up in black bottom..who loved the book as well...Mr Williams did an excellent job

  3. 4 out of 5

    Molly

    It is really amazing to see how little has changed since the late 1800s and early 1900s to now regarding race. I was interested to learn some history of one of Detroit's most famous neighborhoods but really just came away wondering how on earth we've learned nothing about how to treat each other over the (hundreds of) years. If you're a fan of Detroit history, this is an interesting little book - more photos than text, but very educating.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Detroit has come full circle from the early immigrants of The Black Bottom community to the people of the Great migration.to the exodus of the new millennium. It broke ground to the first as the land of the first federal housing project in America. It created decent housing for those in need and thus started a new generation of concrete reservations across the U.S.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Julie Sherwin

    The need to know book! I was born,raise.and worked in Detroit for over thirty years. This book was such an eye opener to many activities I heard about but didn't really know about until I read this book!🤗

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adra

    There are other documentaries about the history of Detroit and the Black Bottom era however, Jeremy Williams 2009 testament is amazing and definitely the one to have. Prior to providing the historical migration of the African American voyage to Detroit, Michigan in 1840, Mr. Williams tells and also states the European transition to Detroit as well. Often documentaries can be difficult to get through. The 125 pages enclosed within his latest debut titled, Images of America is very informative,and There are other documentaries about the history of Detroit and the Black Bottom era however, Jeremy Williams 2009 testament is amazing and definitely the one to have. Prior to providing the historical migration of the African American voyage to Detroit, Michigan in 1840, Mr. Williams tells and also states the European transition to Detroit as well. Often documentaries can be difficult to get through. The 125 pages enclosed within his latest debut titled, Images of America is very informative,and sheds light on yet a sad but true vital point of not only Detroit's History but also America's history as well. From the explanation of how the Black Bottom community received it's name due to it's rich soil, to the mentioning of Paradise Valley, a nationally acclaimed entertaiment district known through out the country for it's featured top notch performers such as the late Billie Holiday, Williams shares his knowledge of the city of Detroit with poise, passion, providing enlightment to the curious reader and historian as well. Prior to reading past articles and archives provided on the Black Bottom Community my knowledge of this era was slightly still undernourished due that to the fact that I am a native of Gary, Indiana. Thanks to Williams literary contribution, I can honestly say now that I am full. From the origination of this community to the demise of it, Williams gets it right! Images of America Detroit The Black Bottom Community should be a required read for all students taking history in the state of Michigan in high school and should also be a mandated read for all History Majors attending Michigan Universities.

  7. 5 out of 5

    63alfred

    Nice pictorial essay of the place and time though there is much more of the story to be told.

  8. 4 out of 5

    jane

    Many photo dates are obviously wrong if you look at the clothing. Not much narrative and some repetition in the text. Great topic though.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia Walsh-brown

    Loved it. I grew up in Detroit and I always heard my family talk about "Hastings street" and all that went on there. The book made me remember the old days.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karen E. Dabney

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Williams

  12. 5 out of 5

    Theodore Stavridis

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jordan

  14. 4 out of 5

    Charles Shipps

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jill L.

  16. 5 out of 5

    sally

  17. 4 out of 5

    Drvelonda

  18. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Lind

  19. 5 out of 5

    Berna

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tom

  21. 5 out of 5

    Diane M. Bancroft

  22. 4 out of 5

    Garrett

  23. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

  24. 5 out of 5

    marc cayce

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ramone

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lee Madson

  27. 5 out of 5

    Al Fields

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Wilkins

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maureen O'Donnell

  30. 4 out of 5

    Versandra Kennebrew

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