Detroit During The World Wars

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Detroit During The World Wars
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World War I was the catalyst that ushered in themes that would define the 20th century: industrialization, urbanization, and the struggle for equality between social classes, gender, and race. During this time, from 1914 to 1918, Detroit was a city rapidly on the rise, with spectacular economic, industrial, and population growth. These were years when some of the city’s most beautiful structures were built, when its industry practices became the international standard, and when its population exploded with new, hopeful emigrants from across the globe. The war provided a unifying theme to a city struggling to define itself and caused its people to come together in new and unexpected ways to support the war effort at home and abroad, often stepping into unfamiliar roles outside of societal norms. Detroit in World War I offers a visual exploration of a city and a people caught in a time of dynamic change—from the men who served the cause to the communities they left behind—who rose to the challenge splendidly and helped create one of the 20th century’s most remarkable and vibrant cities.

When President Roosevelt called for the country to be the great “Arsenal of Democracy,” Detroit helped turn the tide against fascism with its industrial might. Locals were committed to the cause, putting careers and personal ambitions on hold. Factories were retooled from the ground up. Industrialist Henry Ford, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, aviator Charles Lindbergh, legendary boxer Joe Louis, future baseball Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg and the real-life Rosie the Riveters all helped drive the city that was “forging thunderbolts” for the front lines. With a panoramic narrative, author Gregory D. Sumner chronicles the wartime sacrifices, contributions and everyday life of the Motor City.

About the Authors:
Elizabeth Clemens is an audiovisual archivist at the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs at Wayne State University and the author of Images of America: The Works Progress Administration in Detroit.

Gregory D. Sumner, JD, PhD, is chair of history at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he has taught since 1993. He holds a doctorate in American history from Indiana University and has been awarded summer fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and has twice been William J. Fulbright Senior Lecturer at the Université di Roma Tre.
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