Detroit Demographics in 1925

Detroit 1925 - Courtesy Douglas Linder

Between 1915 and 1925, the African American population in Detroit increased from 7,000 to 82,000.  A severe housing shortage soon followed as the city tried to continue to contain the black population and still accommodate growth.

In his book Arc of Justice, Kevin Boyle describes the type of jobs available for African Americans during this time as mostly ".. worst paying, most dangerous." They could be hired to work in the booming automobile industry, but generally only at jobs that white workers refused to take.

African Americans who attempted to buy or rent homes in previously all-white neighborhoods faced intimidation and violence.  In April, 5000 people crowded in front of a home on Northfield Avenue, throwing rocks and threatening to burn the house down.  "The house is being rented by blacks," someone in the crowd explained to police arriving at the scene.  Two months later, Dr. Alexander Turner, a black physician, purchased an expensive brick home on Spokane Avenue.  Minutes after the Turner's moving van arrived at his new home, an angry crowd gathered.  Windows shattered as brick, potatoes and other missiles were hurled at the home.  Within hours, two white men--from an organization called the Tireman Avenue Improvement Association--entered Turner's home and asked, "Will you sell the property back to us?"  Fearing for his life, Turner agreed to sell.  The next month, John Fletcher and his family were the targets of mob violence.  The Fletchers had just sat down to a meal in their new home on Stoepel Avenue when they were spotted through a window by a passing white woman.  The woman began to yell, "Niggers live there! Niggers live there!"  Soon a crowd of 4000 had gathered.  Some in the crowd yelled, "Lynch them!"  Chunks of coke smashed through windows.  Two shots rang out from the Fletcher's home.  One struck a teenager in the thigh.  Police arrested the Fletchers--they would move out the next day.

On July 12, 1925, the Detroit Free Press carried a paid announcement:

"To maintain the high standard of the residential district between Jefferson and Mack Avenues, a meeting has been called by the Waterworks Improvement Association for Thursday night in the Howe School Auditorium.  Men and women of the district, which includes Cadillac, Hurburt, Garland, St. Clair, and Harding Avenues, are asked to attend in self-defense. Two days later, seven hundred white residents of the district crammed into the Howe School Auditorium to discuss the rumored move of a black family into 2905 Garland.  The principal speaker for the meeting was a representative from the Tireman Association, the group that had successfully driven Dr. Turner from his new home the month before. The loudest cheer of the evening came in response to the speaker's contention, " Where the nigger shows his head, the white must shoot."

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