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  1. #1

    Default Detroit's Neighborhoods in the 70s

    What were Detroit's neighborhoods like in the 1970s? Were they burned out with a checkerboard of empty lots like we have now? What were the business districts like? Were there Black Neighborhoods and White Neighborhoods? If so, what were they?

    Trying to get a perspective on how most of Detroit was back in the 70s, and when the rapid decline across the city started.

    Thanks,
    MicrosoftFan

  2. #2

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    I wasn't around, but there was little abandonment in the 1970's. The black neighborhoods were in the core, and the white neighborhoods were on the fringes. Crime and racial tension were high. The city was much busier and more vibrant than now, but everything was going downhill fast. The retail corridors were still all intact, but started suffering terminal decline.

    There was basically a "line" of black advancement outward, and so every year the black neighborhoods grew and white neighborhoods shrunk.

    In 1970 I think the West Side was mostly black south of say McNichols and east of the Southfield Fwy. Everything to the north and west was white. Just to illustrate I know someone who attended Henry Ford High on the NW side and I think the school was basically entirely white in the late 60's and entirely black by the mid 70's. Same thing happened to Mumford, but about five years earlier, and same thing happened to Redford, but about 10 years later.

    The East Side had less black "advancement". Unlike the generally higher income West Side, the working class East Side ethnics couldn't just pick up and move to the burbs. I think everything past City Airport was white until 1980 or so. I know the Far East Side high schools like Finney were mostly white in the 70's.

    Middle class blacks basically followed Jews in a Northwest direction. Poorer blacks went East or West. The Eastside had a reputation as being more racist, so this also contributed to slower turnover. People don't like to move where they aren't welcome.
    Last edited by Bham1982; March-04-17 at 04:01 PM.

  3. #3

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    I lived on the far NE side until 1973 when my dad retired from DPD. Our immediate neighborhood was pretty white with blacks beginning to move into the areas around us, by Gratiot from McNichols to 7 Mile and around Denby High. Very little abandonment by the time we moved up to Almont, but over the next 5 or 6 yrs of coming back to visit you'd notice more houses up for sale in the neighborhood and a few here and there abandoned. Our local shopping districts were 7 and Gratiot, which was anchored with a Federal's and a Ward's and lots of other small stores and was still good until sometime after we moved. Our really local shops were on Kelly Rd from 7 to 8 mile with about 90% of them being in Harper Woods.

  4. #4

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    I was a teenager in Detroit in the '70s and remember those years quite well. We lived on the east side and my family was quite involved in neighborhood and civic affairs. I was riding the buses every day to/from school, often through downtown. As a curious kid I rode buses all over the city, and once i had my drivers license and a car around 1976, went exploring everywhere.

    In the late '60s the city was still full (my near east side elementary school was so overcrowded that we needed portable classrooms on the playground). A lot of white folks did leave after the '67 riot, but more black families moved further out into the neighborhoods as the whites were leaving to take their place. Although the overall population of the city began to decline in the mid-50s, most streets were lined with occupied houses in a way that's almost inconceivable looking at the city today. Most neighborhoods remained reasonably populated into the mid-80s.

    Significant abandonment of housing really began with the ill-fated and ill-administered HUD rehab programs under Nixon and his HUD Secretary George Romney from 1969 into the early '70s. Several neighborhoods "targeted" by the HUD program, like the area between Cadillac and Conner on the east side, were hit pretty hard by this and suddenly had a noticeable number of empty houses. There was also a fair amount of emptying out or clearance of neighborhoods for urban renewal projects that never panned out, or that sank in a morass of poor administration, like what happened to Brush Park. By the late 70s there were noticeable numbers of vacant houses in many neighborhoods, and a slow program of demolitions had begun.

    As for your question about racial residential patterns, you have to keep in mind that Detroit was essentially a segregated city into the early '50s. Black residents were effectively allowed to live only in a few very overcrowded neighborhoods, mostly on the near east side (Black Bottom - where Lafayette Park and Elmwood Park are today, Paradise Valley directly to the north - which included Brush Park and the areas where the Chrysler Freeway and much of the Med Center are now, and further north of Grand Blvd. in the old North End east of Woodward). There were a few black pockets on the west side, most notably the area around Tireman just west of Grand Blvd., as well as a section of the far southwest side down into River Rouge and Ecorse. Conant Gardens, east of Conant and south of 7 Mile, was built in the 1930s as an isolated middle-class black neighborhood.

    This pattern all began to change quickly with the 'urban renewal' destruction of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley in the '50s, the building of large public housing projects, and the Supreme Court ruling ending restrictive covenants in deeds. As Bham indicates, in the 1950s blacks started moving into the Dexter-12th St. area north of the Blvd. on the west side as the area's predominantly Jewish population began moving further to the northwest, and in the 60s followed them further northwest up into the Mumford High area. On the east side, after the destruction of their old neighborhoods, blacks quickly moved eastward across much of the lower east side. By 1970, the east side south of Harper was predominantly black from Elmwood Park to east of Connor. And also north of Hamtramck up Conant to 7 Mile. On the west side the black population stretched north of I-94 and west over to Schaefer or Greenfield.

    I actually still have a lot of nostalgia for the early '70s in Detroit. Despite all the fears, there never was another large riot. Some neighborhoods seemed to stabilize as integrated for a while, downtown was struggling but still full of stores and commerce, a number of redevelopment schemes were being proposed, abandonment was mostly confined to certain neighborhoods, and there seemed to be some strong hope of political and economic progress. But the 1973 mayoral campaign turned very racially toxic, especially around the issues of policing that were instrumental in sparking the riot. There was a long grinding and vicious fight over school desegregation. Crime started to rise again with the heroin boom. And most damaging of all, the economy slowed dramatically in the mid- to late-70s, with the energy and 'stagflation' crises, and the auto industry took a huge hit (from which it never really recovered). The brief era of optimism ended pretty damn quickly.

    Here, from the Detroit 1701 site, is a map of the racial composition of Detroit from the 1970 census:
    Name:  Detroit Black Pop 1970.jpg
Views: 1443
Size:  71.9 KB
    Last edited by EastsideAl; March-04-17 at 09:25 PM.

  5. #5

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    Most neighborhoods were still intact in the 70s. The bottom didn't completely fall out until the crack epidemic of the 80s. Some of the retail districts such as Grand River near Joy Rd, Mack Vandyke area, and 12th St never recovered from the riot of 67. Cass corridor and some midtown downtown areas looked worse than many of the neighborhoods in Detroit

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    I wasn't around, but there was little abandonment in the 1970's. The black neighborhoods were in the core, and the white neighborhoods were on the fringes. Crime and racial tension were high. The city was much busier and more vibrant than now, but everything was going downhill fast. The retail corridors were still all intact, but started suffering terminal decline.

    There was basically a "line" of black advancement outward, and so every year the black neighborhoods grew and white neighborhoods shrunk.

    In 1970 I think the West Side was mostly black south of say McNichols and east of the Southfield Fwy. Everything to the north and west was white. Just to illustrate I know someone who attended Henry Ford High on the NW side and I think the school was basically entirely white in the late 60's and entirely black by the mid 70's. Same thing happened to Mumford, but about five years earlier, and same thing happened to Redford, but about 10 years later.

    The East Side had less black "advancement". Unlike the generally higher income West Side, the working class East Side ethnics couldn't just pick up and move to the burbs. I think everything past City Airport was white until 1980 or so. I know the Far East Side high schools like Finney were mostly white in the 70's.

    Middle class blacks basically followed Jews in a Northwest direction. Poorer blacks went East or West. The Eastside had a reputation as being more racist, so this also contributed to slower turnover. People don't like to move where they aren't welcome.
    Do you mean, you weren't around because you weren't possibly born yet ( 1982 ) or because you grew up someplace else? Simple question, no sarcasm....
    Last edited by Cincinnati_Kid; March-05-17 at 07:02 PM.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by stasu1213 View Post
    Most neighborhoods were still intact in the 70s. The bottom didn't completely fall out until the crack epidemic of the 80s. Some of the retail districts such as Grand River near Joy Rd, Mack Vandyke area, and 12th St never recovered from the riot of 67. Cass corridor and some midtown downtown areas looked worse than many of the neighborhoods in Detroit
    The crack epidemic of the '80s, and the resulting rise in truly violent crime, seems to have been a real turning point in the decline of neighborhoods in the city. It seemed like some neighborhoods went from being intact and reasonably well-populated with only a few vacant homes to being terrifying wastelands virtually overnight. That's also when 'black flight' really seemed to get going and joined 'white flight' in emptying out whole areas of the city over the next 20+ years. But, interestingly, even as crime fell in the late '90s the population outflow continued.
    Last edited by EastsideAl; March-05-17 at 12:34 PM.

  8. #8

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    Crack houses started popping up in tight knit lack neighborhoods due to landlords renting out to single parents or those pretending to be single parents in ADC. The parent then move in the drug dealer who is either a boyfriend or grown son whatever. The house become a drug house then the woman move out and the landlord didn't come and check on his/hers property. The house get shot up or set on fire by rival drug gangs. Well established residents on the street are too afraid to call the police or the police raid the place but the drug dealer come back and set up shop again running the good residents away leaving no one on the street but careless renters. Within a few years the neighborhoods goes down such as had happened to Gratiot from Conner to McNichols and throughout Detroi5

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastsideAl View Post
    The crack epidemic of the '80s, and the resulting rise in truly violent crime, seems to have been a real turning point in the decline of neighborhoods in the city. It seemed like some neighborhoods went from being intact and reasonably well-populated with only a few vacant homes to being terrifying wastelands virtually overnight. That's also when 'black flight' really seemed to get going and joined 'white flight' in emptying out whole areas of the city over the next 20+ years. But, interestingly, even as crime fell in the late '90s the population outflow continued.
    Stats show the population was actually stabilizing in the 1990s until Engler lifted the residency requirement and subsequently the mortgage bubble kicked into full gear (which IMO were the final nails in the coffin).

  10. #10

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    Yup the crack era shut down any hope for Detroits revivial or stability. Mayor Coleman A Young along with police chief Hart turned a blind eye to violence and drugs, thus allowing violent gangs to run the city. When white residents tried to fight back defending their neighborhoods they were prosecuted. 1975, Bob Boltans Lounge.. Andrew Chinarian-guilty,,,, 1988 Perry Kent, Angelo Parisi not guilty.

    Also, remember more whites were prosecuted after the 1967 riots for attempted 2nd degree murder for defending their businesses.

    Whites simply got fed up with the system they preceived as defending violent thugs and moved out wholesale style.

    The last elected fighter against this invasion of violent thugs was Thomas Poindexter.

  11. #11

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    The following entry is from "The Detroit Almanac" (a book many folks on DY have boasted if not pic posted as having owned in their library) regarding Thomas Poindexter (italics mine):

    "The reactionary leader of Detroit's white home owners fought against neighborhood integration in the 1950's and '60s. A Democratic lawyer, Poindexter began his public career as a harsh critic of big business but switched his targets to crime and civil rights, becoming a sympathizer of both the John Birch Society and Alabama Gov. George Wallace. He was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1964, at the time he was championing the Homeowner's Rights Ordinance, which would have preserved the right of whites to discriminate against blacks in selling homes. Voters passed the measure, but courts ruled it unconstitutional."

    Yeah, not somebody I would hail as a hero from Detroit history, and I would trust most folks on DY would feel the same way.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by G-DDT View Post
    The following entry is from "The Detroit Almanac" (a book many folks on DY have boasted if not pic posted as having owned in their library) regarding Thomas Poindexter (italics mine):

    "The reactionary leader of Detroit's white home owners fought against neighborhood integration in the 1950's and '60s. A Democratic lawyer, Poindexter began his public career as a harsh critic of big business but switched his targets to crime and civil rights, becoming a sympathizer of both the John Birch Society and Alabama Gov. George Wallace. He was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1964, at the time he was championing the Homeowner's Rights Ordinance, which would have preserved the right of whites to discriminate against blacks in selling homes. Voters passed the measure, but courts ruled it unconstitutional."

    Yeah, not somebody I would hail as a hero from Detroit history, and I would trust most folks on DY would feel the same way.
    I couldn't believe it when I saw that name out of the deep, distant, and unmissed past pop up here.

    Anyway, as stasu indicates above, the main victims of the crack boom were black families and black homeowners. A lot of people lost everything, including themselves or their children. And it was one of the big reasons for the start of significant 'black flight' out of the city, which was when our population loss really accelerated.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    There was basically a "line" of black advancement outward, and so every year the black neighborhoods grew and white neighborhoods shrunk.

    In 1970 I think the West Side was mostly black south of say McNichols and east of the Southfield Fwy. Everything to the north and west was white.
    I think you're pretty much wrong. I can say that because I was there.

    I can also say most of Brightmoor was lily white and was one of the worst areas of the city. Pure poor white trash rednecks.

    Much of the area west of Wyoming was mixed with denser pockets of different groups. Oddly enough, some sections north of Seven Mile went bad before other areas. I was near Fenkell and Greenfield until '78 and that area was fine despite becoming more mixed.

    I went to Fenkell and Evergreen area which was also fine until I moved out of town in the mid 80s.

    In the early 90s, I moved back into town near McNichols and Telegraph and that area stayed relatively safe. I moved out of state in '98 and got a lot more for my house than I ever expected to; close to double what I paid for it.

  14. #14

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    At that last house, I remember being able to leave the doors unlocked without a problem.

    I didn't do it intentionally, but sometimes forgot to lock up at night.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cincinnati_Kid View Post
    Do you mean, you weren't around because you weren't possibly born yet ( 1982 ) or because you grew up someplace else? Simple question, no sarcasm....
    I was born late 70's. The "1982" refers to something else.

    I've always had an interest in Detroit during the 60's and 70's, though. The pace of change was incredible.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meddle View Post
    I think you're pretty much wrong. I can say that because I was there.
    The racial map, posted in this thread, shows I wasn't entirely accurate, but not too far off either.

    I guessed that the West Side was black up to McNichols and the Southfield Fwy. It appears that black neighborhoods did extend to around the Southfield Fwy (or is that Greenfield?), but I underestimated black expansion northwards- black neighborhoods existed west of Livernois and east of Greenfield (?) and extended to 8 Mile.

    Quote Originally Posted by Meddle View Post
    I can also say most of Brightmoor was lily white and was one of the worst areas of the city. Pure poor white trash rednecks.
    I wasn't making value judgments. I bet you the black neighborhoods of NW Detroit were generally much nicer than lily-white Brigtmoor. After, all, they were occupying higher income neighborhoods full of professionals. The neighborhoods around UofD appear to have been majority black by 1970, and those neighborhoods were very nice (they're somewhat nice even today).

    And Fenkell-Greenfield was probably niceish because that's the Grandmont neighborhood. Nice brick homes. Even today, that area is better-than-average.
    Last edited by Bham1982; March-05-17 at 10:02 PM.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meddle View Post
    I think you're pretty much wrong. I can say that because I was there.

    I can also say most of Brightmoor was lily white and was one of the worst areas of the city. Pure poor white trash rednecks.

    Much of the area west of Wyoming was mixed with denser pockets of different groups. Oddly enough, some sections north of Seven Mile went bad before other areas. I was near Fenkell and Greenfield until '78 and that area was fine despite becoming more mixed.

    I went to Fenkell and Evergreen area which was also fine until I moved out of town in the mid 80s.

    In the early 90s, I moved back into town near McNichols and Telegraph and that area stayed relatively safe. I moved out of state in '98 and got a lot more for my house than I ever expected to; close to double what I paid for it.

    Totally agree about Brightmoor. Had a cousin that stayed on Chapel near Outer Drive, and most of the residents back then were white, but some blacks lived there as well.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    I underestimated black expansion northwards- black neighborhoods existed west of Livernois and east of Greenfield (?) and extended to 8 Mile.
    The 8 Mile–Wyoming area was a black neighborhood long before the 1960s, it was settled by blacks in the early 20th century, when the surrounding area was still farmland.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    I wasn't around, but there was little abandonment in the 1970's. The black neighborhoods were in the core, and the white neighborhoods were on the fringes. Crime and racial tension were high. The city was much busier and more vibrant than now, but everything was going downhill fast. The retail corridors were still all intact, but started suffering terminal decline.

    There was basically a "line" of black advancement outward, and so every year the black neighborhoods grew and white neighborhoods shrunk.

    In 1970 I think the West Side was mostly black south of say McNichols and east of the Southfield Fwy. Everything to the north and west was white. Just to illustrate I know someone who attended Henry Ford High on the NW side and I think the school was basically entirely white in the late 60's and entirely black by the mid 70's. Same thing happened to Mumford, but about five years earlier, and same thing happened to Redford, but about 10 years later.

    The East Side had less black "advancement". Unlike the generally higher income West Side, the working class East Side ethnics couldn't just pick up and move to the burbs. I think everything past City Airport was white until 1980 or so. I know the Far East Side high schools like Finney were mostly white in the 70's.

    Middle class blacks basically followed Jews in a Northwest direction. Poorer blacks went East or West. The Eastside had a reputation as being more racist, so this also contributed to slower turnover. People don't like to move where they aren't welcome.
    Bham you lack of knowledge of the city is beyond astonishing. Although anytime I need a "pick me up" I just have to read your comments and laugh until it hurts. Its time to do real research before you comment on here.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    And Fenkell-Greenfield was probably niceish because that's the Grandmont neighborhood. Nice brick homes. Even today, that area is better-than-average.

    Umm, no, not Grandmont. Not even close to Grandmont. 1-1/2 story brick bungalows on 30x60 lots like most of the west side west of Livernois and much of the east side.

    No idea what it's like today since I haven't been there since 1990 or so which was the last time I drove through there to see the old house.

  21. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastsideAl View Post
    I couldn't believe it when I saw that name out of the deep, distant, and unmissed past pop up here.

    Anyway, as stasu indicates above, the main victims of the crack boom were black families and black homeowners. A lot of people lost everything, including themselves or their children. And it was one of the big reasons for the start of significant 'black flight' out of the city, which was when our population loss really accelerated.
    Going to have to agree about the crack thing. That was damaging for so many folks, families, and neighborhoods.

    Regarding the 70's, I barely recall much, as I was a tyke. I still remember how the Fairlane Towncenter had an ice rink and a monorail going to the Hyatt. I went to Holy Cross Lutheran tucked behind the Federal's/Kingsway/Mammoth there on Grand River; our "Playground" was a dinky, fenced-in, paved-over lot no bigger than a Subway sandwich shop parking lot.

    Sure could tell you a lot about the 80's, though. I grew up in North Rosedale Park where we had a wonderful integrated mix of blacks and whites living together harmoniously (and feel free to check out the photo albums I posted in my profile area). The only thing we had to fear were bike thieves. We could still ride bikes and walk openly (once, at the age of seven I rode my little training wheel bike the whole length of Verne Ave. and stopped at every street to write down the name of the streets on a little map. I was that inspired by the exploring nature of Indiana Jones. My parents had mixed emotions of awe and trepidation that I pulled such a thing.), go to the corner store, play sports in the street with no fear. Ours was a community that didn't want to be swayed, and we had a good sense of solidarity, as displayed by our many community functions.

  22. #22

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    Quote Originally Posted by p69rrh51 View Post
    Bham you lack of knowledge of the city is beyond astonishing. Although anytime I need a "pick me up" I just have to read your comments and laugh until it hurts. Its time to do real research before you comment on here.
    Well it's truly wonderful you're so knowledgeable and easily humored. It's amazing the 1970 Census data somehow mirrors my statements; they must be in on the conspiracy.

    Now please detail where I was wrong.
    Last edited by Bham1982; March-06-17 at 07:29 AM.

  23. #23

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meddle View Post
    Umm, no, not Grandmont. Not even close to Grandmont.
    You seriously lived around Fenkell-Greenfield and believe it is "not even close to Grandmont"?

    I suggest you consult a map. Grandmont is just off Grand River east of the Southfield Fwy, which is right by Fenkell-Greenfield.

  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bham1982 View Post
    Well it's truly wonderful you're so knowledgeable and easily humored. It's amazing the 1970 Census data somehow mirrors my statements; they must be in on the conspiracy.

    Now please detail where I was wrong.
    Your ignorance of the city is not worth my time to document.

  25. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by EastsideAl View Post
    I was a teenager in Detroit in the '70s and remember those years quite well. We lived on the east side and my family was quite involved in neighborhood and civic affairs. I was riding the buses every day to/from school, often through downtown. As a curious kid I rode buses all over the city, and once i had my drivers license and a car around 1976, went exploring everywhere.

    In the late '60s the city was still full (my near east side elementary school was so overcrowded that we needed portable classrooms on the playground). A lot of white folks did leave after the '67 riot, but more black families moved further out into the neighborhoods as the whites were leaving to take their place. Although the overall population of the city began to decline in the mid-50s, most streets were lined with occupied houses in a way that's almost inconceivable looking at the city today. Most neighborhoods remained reasonably populated into the mid-80s.

    Significant abandonment of housing really began with the ill-fated and ill-administered HUD rehab programs under Nixon and his HUD Secretary George Romney from 1969 into the early '70s. Several neighborhoods "targeted" by the HUD program, like the area between Cadillac and Conner on the east side, were hit pretty hard by this and suddenly had a noticeable number of empty houses. There was also a fair amount of emptying out or clearance of neighborhoods for urban renewal projects that never panned out, or that sank in a morass of poor administration, like what happened to Brush Park. By the late 70s there were noticeable numbers of vacant houses in many neighborhoods, and a slow program of demolitions had begun.

    As for your question about racial residential patterns, you have to keep in mind that Detroit was essentially a segregated city into the early '50s. Black residents were effectively allowed to live only in a few very overcrowded neighborhoods, mostly on the near east side (Black Bottom - where Lafayette Park and Elmwood Park are today, Paradise Valley directly to the north - which included Brush Park and the areas where the Chrysler Freeway and much of the Med Center are now, and further north of Grand Blvd. in the old North End east of Woodward). There were a few black pockets on the west side, most notably the area around Tireman just west of Grand Blvd., as well as a section of the far southwest side down into River Rouge and Ecorse. Conant Gardens, east of Conant and south of 7 Mile, was built in the 1930s as an isolated middle-class black neighborhood.

    This pattern all began to change quickly with the 'urban renewal' destruction of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley in the '50s, the building of large public housing projects, and the Supreme Court ruling ending restrictive covenants in deeds. As Bham indicates, in the 1950s blacks started moving into the Dexter-12th St. area north of the Blvd. on the west side as the area's predominantly Jewish population began moving further to the northwest, and in the 60s followed them further northwest up into the Mumford High area. On the east side, after the destruction of their old neighborhoods, blacks quickly moved eastward across much of the lower east side. By 1970, the east side south of Harper was predominantly black from Elmwood Park to east of Connor. And also north of Hamtramck up Conant to 7 Mile. On the west side the black population stretched north of I-94 and west over to Schaefer or Greenfield.

    I actually still have a lot of nostalgia for the early '70s in Detroit. Despite all the fears, there never was another large riot. Some neighborhoods seemed to stabilize as integrated for a while, downtown was struggling but still full of stores and commerce, a number of redevelopment schemes were being proposed, abandonment was mostly confined to certain neighborhoods, and there seemed to be some strong hope of political and economic progress. But the 1973 mayoral campaign turned very racially toxic, especially around the issues of policing that were instrumental in sparking the riot. There was a long grinding and vicious fight over school desegregation. Crime started to rise again with the heroin boom. And most damaging of all, the economy slowed dramatically in the mid- to late-70s, with the energy and 'stagflation' crises, and the auto industry took a huge hit (from which it never really recovered). The brief era of optimism ended pretty damn quickly.

    Here, from the Detroit 1701 site, is a map of the racial composition of Detroit from the 1970 census:
    Name:  Detroit Black Pop 1970.jpg
Views: 1443
Size:  71.9 KB
    Excellent synopsis. This agrees with my recollections as a resident and as a residential service technician whose areas of service included all zipcodes in Detroit proper.

    Good job.

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