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Publisher's Summary

The author of Baldwin's Harlem looks at the evolving culture, politics, economics, and spiritual life of Detroit - a blend of memoir, love letter, history, and clear-eyed reportage that explores the city's past, present, and future and its significance to the African American legacy and the nation's fabric.

Herb Boyd moved to Detroit in 1943, as race riots were engulfing the city. Though he did not grasp their full significance at the time, this critical moment would be one of many he witnessed that would mold his political activism and exposed a city restless for change. In Black Detroit, he reflects on his life and this landmark place, in search of understanding why Detroit is a special place for black people.

Boyd reveals how black Detroiters were prominent in the city's historic, groundbreaking union movement and - when given an opportunity - were among the tireless workers who made the automobile industry the center of American industry. Well-paying jobs on assembly lines allowed working-class black Detroiters to ascend to the middle class and achieve financial stability, an accomplishment not often attainable in other industries.

Boyd makes clear that while many of these middle-class jobs have disappeared, decimating the population and hitting blacks hardest, Detroit survives thanks to the emergence of companies such as Shinola - which represent the strength of the Motor City and its continued importance to the country. He also brings into focus the major figures who have defined and shaped Detroit, including William Lambert, the great abolitionist; Berry Gordy, the founder of Motown; Coleman Young, the city's first black mayor; diva songstress Aretha Franklin; Malcolm X; and Ralphe Bunche, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

With a stunning eye for detail and passion for Detroit, Boyd celebrates the music, manufacturing, politics, and culture that make it an American original.

©2017 Herb Boyd (P)2017 HarperCollins Publishers

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book about the past and present of Black Detroit

This book was the story about self-determination between blacks and the history of their existence here in Detroit. It also detailed the contributions african-Americans made. It gave great hope for the city in an outlined some of things we must do in order to continue to bring things full-circle and forward.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great writing and storytelling by Herb Boyd

This is an important book about the history of African Americans in Detroit and the US. Herb Boyd is a masterful storyteller who not only captures the times but the mood, the texture and dynamics of each moment and each subject.

The performance quality is poor but doesn't diminish the writing. It does distract and disappoint because it is so full of mispronunciations and lacks the energy and nuance that is needed for such a powerful rendering of History.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Love this book!

Fascinating and thoughtful book about the history of Detroit I have listened to it twice and I know I will listen to it at least one more time. Highly recommended for all, but especially for those who think they already know Detroit. Puts many issues into proper context.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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narration

What made the experience of listening to Black Detroit the most enjoyable?

how the author led you through the black history in Detroit decade by decade

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of James Shippy?

James Shippy need brush up on his pronunciation of certain street names

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

the union period

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Rick
  • Murrieta, CA, United States
  • 07-19-17

Selective Recall

I found the history interesting though like any historical account somewhat one-sided or better yet, selectively represented. From the Race Riots of the 60's-70's where the author painstakingly justifies looting to conveniently skimming over the entirety of the Kwame Kilpatrick scandal, how can the book as a whole be taken as factual? "Kilpatrick being found guilty on 6 felony charges" hardly tells the story of how an elected official, one of their own, used Detroit as a platform for his personal coffer, and gangster lair. He cheated an entire city, black and white and was sentenced to 28 years as a result. Tell the whole story!

James Shippy does an adequate job of narration though his even tone sometimes sounds more monotone than anything and at best lacks inflection and emphasis which (almost) makes the book longer than it actually reads.

1 of 3 people found this review helpful