Once in a great city A Detroit story

David Maraniss

Book - 2015

"As David Maraniss captures it with power and affection, Detroit summed up America's path to music and prosperity that was already past history. It's 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city's leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford; Henry Ford II; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown's founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rig...hts advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. It was the American auto makers' best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther's UAW had helped lift the middle class. The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington March. Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of Rust Belt infirmities-- from harsh weather to high labor costs-- and competition from abroad to explain Detroit's collapse, one could see the signs of a city's ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts"--

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Subjects
Published
New York, NY : Simon & Schuster 2015.
Edition
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xiii, 441 pages, 16 unnumbered leaves of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [383]--407) and index.
ISBN
9781476748382
1476748381
9781476748399
Main Author
David Maraniss (author)
  • Gone
  • Ask not
  • The Show
  • West Grand Boulevard
  • Party bus
  • Glow
  • Motor City Mad Men
  • The pitch of his hum
  • An important man
  • Home juice
  • Eight lanes down Woodward
  • Detroit dreamed first
  • Heat wave
  • The vast magnitude
  • Houses divided
  • The spirit of Detroit
  • Smoke rings
  • Fallen
  • Big old waterboats
  • Unfinished business
  • The magic skyway
  • Upward to the Great society
  • Now and then.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Long before Detroit became the poster city for the Rust Belt and urban decay, its leading indicators were already faltering. Maraniss, a native son and a continuing admirer despite the city's travails, chronicles 18 months, from the fall of 1962 to the spring of 1964, to offer a compelling portrait of one of America's most iconic cities. The "car guys" dominated the economy and the culture of the city, calling the shots on every major decision, deciding the fates of workers and politicos. At the same time, the emerging music scene of Motown gave promise to the aspirations of black Detroiters. It was a time when Detroit was so confident that it was making a bid for the 1968 Summer Olympics. But a report by Wayne State University already foresaw many of the demographic and economic changes that would eventually lead to the decline of Detroit. Maraniss highlights the class and race frictions that demarcated and defined the city and gives readers a glimpse of the colorful life of mobsters and moguls, entertainers and entrepreneurs. Among the famous Detroiters he highlights are Henry Ford II, Lee Iacocca, Berry Gordy Jr., George Romney, and the Reverend C. L. Franklin. Maraniss captures Detroit just as it is both thriving and dying, at the peak of its vibrancy and on the verge of its downfall. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Well-known Pulitzer Prize–winning author and Washington Post editor Maraniss explores 18 months in the mid-1960s when Detroit's great achievers and ordinary citizens were very optimistic.  Their city was making unique contributions with cars, Motown music, unions, and civil rights.  However, the author's self-described "urban biography" notes Detroit also faced growing white flight to suburbs, automobile factory closures and job loss, black-white racial tensions over housing and jobs, and an African American community's poor relations with an overwhelmingly white police force.  Maraniss retells well-documented events but adds new insights about a number of them, as well as other lesser-known but important stories.  He highlights activities of well-known Detroiters and recounts stories of hundreds of others, from Motown stars to community leaders, mobsters, auto execs and workers, et al.  Skillfully weaving into his engaging chronological narrative personal recollections from both famous and regular citizens, Maraniss makes excellent use of his numerous interviews and thorough research in Michigan and national archives, oral history excerpts, and Detroit newspaper quotes.  Detailed descriptions of local places will educate even Michiganders.  Excellent index and selected bibliography, 34 photos of key personalities, several Detroit maps, and a very useful time line.  A well-written, fascinating book. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. Copyright 2016 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author (e.g., First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton), Detroit-born Maraniss argues that the city didn't fall because of riots or rust-belt issues. In 1963, it boasted leading lights from Henry Ford II to Motown founder Berry Gordy; Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech there first. Yet in this final golden moment the world stood ready to pass Detroit by. [Page 61]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

In his new book, social historian Maraniss (They Marched Into Sunlight) asks: What happened to Detroit? In well-researched material that includes exclusive interviews with notable figures, the author concentrates his analysis on the "golden years" of Detroit in the early 1960s; an era that saw the rise of Motown and the domination of the Ford Motor Company's triumphant Mustang but was also a time of social unrest and racial conflict. He uses elements often associated with Detroit—music, athletics, motors, and race relations—to illustrate that even at the city's highest points, the inability to address the social issues dividing black and white, rich and poor, would ultimately be its undoing. Maraniss draws connections between Detroit's struggles, successes, and doubts to those same issues on the larger, national, scale, keeping the discussion in perspective. In celebration of what Detroit represented, this book is equally a study of what was lost and is written with an attractive wistfulness that pulls the reader in. The narrative's tone of reminiscence makes it entertainingly informative. VERDICT A colorful, detailed history of the rise and ultimate decline of Detroit that will appeal to sociologists, historians, music lovers, and car fans alike. [See Prepub Alert, 3/30/15.]—Elizabeth Zeitz, Otterbein Univ. Lib., Westerville, OH [Page 96]. (c) Copyright 2015 Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Using a combination of historical eyewitness reports and sketches of larger-than-life figures, Pulitzer-winning reporter Maraniss (Barack Obama: The Story) draws a sprawling portrait of Detroit at a pivotal moment when it was "dying and thriving at the same time." Given its current turmoil, it is easy to forget the Detroit that once was. Between the fall of 1962 and the spring of 1964, Detroit was at its peak. It was a front-runner in the bid for the 1968 Summer Olympics; its local civil rights leaders organized the Walk to Freedom, where Martin Luther King Jr. workshopped his famous "I Have a Dream" speech; Ford Motor Co. released the Mustang; Berry Gordy was honing the soon-to-be famous "Motown sound" on West Grand Boulevard; and Walter Reuther, head of UAW, was guiding labor towards progressive reform. But even in this golden age, all was not well in Detroit. Discriminatory housing practices, intended to prevent minorities from entering the toniest neighborhoods, were exacerbating existing racial tensions, and the city's organized crime could not be cleaned up despite the police commissioner's best efforts. But for all his exhaustive research and evocative scene-setting, Maraniss never seems to find the zeitgeist of the historical moment he covers, the essential spirit that lifted up but ultimately ruined the Motor City. Maps & photos. Agent: Rafe Sagalyn, ICM/Sagalyn. (Sept.) [Page ]. Copyright 2015 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Explores everything that made Detroit great--from the auto industry visionaries to influential labor leaders to the hit-makers of Motown--while demonstrating how there were hints of the citys tragic collapse decades before the riot, years of civic corruption, and neglect took their toll.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"As David Maraniss captures it with power and affection, Detroit summed up America's path to music and prosperity that was already past history. It's 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city's leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford; Henry Ford II; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown's founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rights advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. It was the American auto makers' best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther's UAW had helped lift the middle class. The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther Kingdelivered his "I Have a Dream" speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march. Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities--from harsh weather to high labor costs--and competition from abroad to explain Detroit's collapse, one could see the signs of a city's ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Despite everything that made Detroit great — from the auto industry visionaries, to influential labor leaders, to the hit-makers of Motown — shows how there were hints of the city's tragic collapse decades before the riot, years of civic corruption and neglect took their toll.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

* Winner - Robert F. Kennedy Book Award (2016) *'Elegiac and richly detailed...[Maraniss] succeeds with authoritative, adrenaline-laced flair...evocative.' 'michiko Kakutani for The New York TimesAs David Maraniss captures it with power and affection, Detroit summed up America's path to music and prosperity that was already past history.It's 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city's leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford; Henry Ford II; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown's founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rights advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. It was the American auto makers' best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther's UAW had helped lift the middle class.The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his 'I Have a Dream' speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march.Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities'from harsh weather to high labor costs'and competition from abroad to explain Detroit's collapse, one could see the signs of a city's ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.