The Ugly Truth About Detroit is Out–The City Has Deep Roots in Slavery

Written by Jae Jones

Everyone knows how Metro Detroiters love celebrating their local history, especially when it is taking their world-class chapters of the great past into account. The most prominent history stories include that of Motown records, Coney Island, the Underground Railroad and the auto industry. However, not all the history is one that has a pretty side to it. Those are the chapters that might be interesting to some but have a deep hidden past and are often kept in the back rooms and rarely if ever talked about.

For instance, Henry Ford’s anti-Semitism, taking land from Indian people, the Free Press’ 19th Century racism and the auto companies’ early workers abuse. Then there is the big topic that no one talks about, . It is swept under the rugs and buried in holes so far down that one might would think it never really existed.

Yes, slavery in Detroit took place. It was an essential chapter in Detroit’s 311-year history story. However, no one wants to talk about it, it is a subject that is neglected, left people in denial, and students uneducated about their past history. However, now college students from the area know that slavery played a key role in the growth of Detroit and the wealthy Detroiters cannot say they did not own slaves during the first 120 years of slavery because most of them did. When metro Detroiters talk about slavery, they talk about men and women picking cotton in Georgia and Mississippi because that is what students in southeastern Michigan learn in school.

What is known as the “national sin” is also a big sin that is embedded down in Detroit’s roots of sin. Believe it or not Slavery belongs to Detroit just like slavery belongs to Charleston, Monticello and New Orleans. Who would ever believe that? Most people wouldn’t because it is a big Detroit secret. The worst part is that many roads, schools and communities across southeast Michigan have the names of prominent old families who owned slaves. Names such as Abbott, Brush, Cass, Rivard, Campau, and Macomb were the last names of slave owners.

How about this, the first mayor of Detroit, John R. Williams, who has two name sakes in the streets of Detroit-was a slave owner. Even priests of the Catholic Church in Detroit owned slaves, and baptized them. The work of slaves helped build Detroit. And just like in the South, slavery in Detroit was reinforced by violence. Slaves worked without any pay for their entire lives, under threat of the lash and death.

The same types of labor, stealing, beating and torturing of slaves happened in Detroit, Michigan. The slaves died young, and put in unmarked graves sometimes, they were soon forgotten and their burial grounds paved over by later generations.

In 1750, for example, toward the end of the French regime, more than 25 percent of Detroit residents kept slaves.

“Not surprisingly, Detroit’s slaveholders came from the wealthiest segment of French society. The reminders of slavery is gone from Detroit. But one artifact that remains is a scarred and cracked account book that has yellowed and brittle pages. It sits in storage in the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. The book belonged to William Macomb, the richest person in Detroit when he died in 1796. Among all the things that he listed as worldly possessions he listed owning 26 humans. The slaves were estimated to be worth 1,655 pounds at the time. His items were left to his wife at the time of death.

Whether it was a man or a woman, life as a slave was difficult for them in Detroit. These individuals were treated just like slaves in the south, they slept on the kitchen floors of Detroiters’ homes, and the record is clear that owners did not hesitate to flog their human property when they believed discipline was called for.

A graduate student, Arthur Kooker, wrote his doctoral dissertation in 1941 at the University of Michigan on abolitionists in Michigan before the Civil War. In his preface, Kooker wrote about his surprise when he discovered that slavery was a big part of Michigan’s history.

People in the 21st Century began reviewing what actually took place during slavery and how their businesses had a part in it during earlier years. Many businesses went on record apologizing for these ties to those times. Slavery has touched so many people’s lives around the world that it is almost a never ending story of what occurred, when or how. People are constantly finding new information about what took place hundreds of years ago. Some people are hurt, embarrassed and there are even those who are still angry.

Original Source –http://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/1686/slavery_is_detroit_s_big_bad_secret_why_don_t_we_know_anything_about_it

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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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