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SWD AHG Title BR 7.5.22


As the Guide formally launches in the fall of 2023, it is worth noting that what appear here represents more than a decade of work on the part of the Guide team, largely undertaken by community activists, students, and consulting scholars. The challenges of fundraising and the evolving nature of the MCNHA website’s infrastructure meant that work unfolded in several phases. Looking forward, we invite others to help in this ongoing tribute to Southwest Detroit’s auto legacy as it is made accessible to current and former neighborhood residents, tourists, auto enthusiasts, community activists, and students.

The Guide Team trusts that the profiles of firms found in the Firms and Sites section, many of which were drafted prior to 2017, still serve as a solid foundation for this undertaking. Most of the essays that appear in the Community History and Labor Roots sections were developed towards the end of by 2020. Having done so much to chronicle the area’s firms and labor history, the team is beginning to explore how best to tell the stories of the various cultural communities that came from afar to power the neighborhood’s auto factories in the era of its auto boom.

The Guide Team welcome contributions from others who can help provide material that complements what is currently posted or that highlights facets of community history that have yet to be addressed. The WE “AUTO KNOW MORE” post outlines opportunities to add the stories of additional auto businesses, and of other local unions, including those affiliated with the Steelworkers and Teamsters. The discussions that appear at the end of the Michigan Central Station profile suggest how the Guide can highlight the histories of Southwest Detroit’s mosaic of ethnic and cultural communities. New projects can be designed to suit the interests of anyone who gets involved. A good deal of research is in hand and available to college and high school students, church and union groups, and individuals who want to join our team. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to find out how you can take part.


These individuals have researched, developed, and edited much of the information found in the Guide and will continue to oversee future work.

Ron Alpern is a founding member of Detroit Labor History Tours and co-produced its Rivera’s Labor Legacy DPTV broadcast. He is a former Detroit Recreation Department staff member who helped launch Chene and Milliken State Parks. He also organized the artist selection competition for the Labor’s Legacy Landmark project. He has coordinated the work on this initiative and contributed to several posts.

Dr. Daniel Clark teaches history at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. He is the author of Like Night and Day: Unionization in a Southern Mill Town and Disruption in Detroit: Autoworkers and the Elusive Postwar Boom. He has served as an advisor and editor and will continue on the Guide’s steering committee.

Dianne Feeley, a retired autoworker and the editor of the journal Against the Current, lives and works in Southwest Detroit. In addition to being responsible for researching and writing many of the profiles of area auto businesses, she was instrumental in helping generate the earliest prototypes of the Guide.

Dr. Dan Luria is an auto industry analyst and former UAW Research Department economist. Co-author of Rational Reindustrialization (1981), an industrial policy prescription for Detroit, he studies and writes broadly on Michigan and Midwest economic policy. He is also a member of the steering committee. He’s assisted with research and editing of the site, in addition to contributing the essay that traced the legislative initiative that championed “Right to Work.”


DPL BHC 1 Baker St Trolley HBTGBaker Street Trolley - the main route serving Southwest Detroit factories and the Ford Rouge complex 



David Elsila is a former editor of American Teacher and the UAW magazine, Solidarity. A board member and treasurer of the Michigan Labor History Society, he also served on the Board of Directors of the MotorCities National Heritage area. He has collaborated on several books, including The Color of Law, Working Detroit, The New Labor Press, We Make Our Own History, and Union Town. His essays introduce the Guide’s Labor Roots section.

Dr. Mitchell Fleischer is an organizational psychologist who spent two decades helping companies in the auto industry adopt new practices for engineering and manufacturing in order to improve competitiveness. He is on course to complete a PhD thesis on a history of economic development in Detroit and Southeast Michigan since WWII. He contributed the profiles of Renaissance Global Logistics founder John James and serves on the steering committee.

Dr. Louise-Hélène Filion is a lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Residential College. A fellowship sponsored by the Research Fund of Quebec in Society and Culture in 2020 – 2022 allowed her to help the team formulate its initial approach to exploring histories of the neighborhood’s cultural communities. She is responsible for the essay that introduces the Guide’s discussion of undertaking that research effort.

Matthew Harding was a student in Dr. Tracy Neumann’s Wayne State University History of Detroit 2012 seminar. He is now the assistant editor of RePlay magazine, a monthly trade publication for the amusement industry. He also continues sharing his love of history through various writing and photography projects. His paper was incorporated into the profile of the Cadillac Clark Street plant.

Dr. Stephen Jones teaches history at Central Michigan University. He is a labor poet and singer, a former Detroit Free Press reporter, and a former auto beat reporter for the Associated Press. He is responsible for the Community History essay that summarizes Detroit auto history in the era following World War II.

Dr. Thomas Klug is professor emeritus of history at Marygrove College. He has published essays about Detroit’s anti-union employers in the early 20th century, compiled the comprehensive Bibliography of Detroit History, Culture and Politics: Late Nineteenth-Century to the Present (3rd edition, 2020), and is editor of the Great Lakes Books series of Wayne State University Press. His research informs the Guide’s discussion of the neighborhood’s late 19th century manufacturers who established the foundation for auto’s emergence.

James Pedersen is the former Program Co-Chair of the Michigan Labor History Society. A UAW member from the former Ford Saline operation, he served in the UAW’s Education and COPE departments and taught in the University of Michigan Dearborn’s Labor and Community Studies Program. He is a steering committee member whose insights have informed both strategic planning and research efforts.

Aimee Shulman is a PhD candidate in Wayne State University’s history department. In the course of her 2023 WSU Humanities Center summer internship, she assisted with research while creating the essay highlighting the experiences of Native American who relocated to Detroit in search of auto jobs starting in the late 1950s.

The Guide benefitted greatly from the research and editorial assistance provided by Kel Keller and Stephanie Suszek. Special thanks also to Dr. Tracy Neumann and Shaun Nethercott for their assistance in the earliest phases of the Guide’s development.


This effort is deeply indebted to the MotorCities National Heritage Area for its sustained interest since planning began in 2011. The Guide’s steering committee is most grateful that MCNHA has agreed to post new material as it is created moving forward. Without the counsel and technical expertise of Deputy Director Brian Yopp, the Guide would not have been possible.

The cooperation of the Michigan Labor History Society, Detroit Historical Museum, Walter Reuther Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, and the City of Detroit / Historic Designation Advisory Board proved invaluable in getting the Guide to this point.

Kathy Wendler, a retired President of the Southwest Detroit Business Association, and Marion Bloye, an activist with the former Southwest Detroit Historical Association, have long championed shining a spotlight on Southwest Detroit’s auto legacy. Ismael Ahmed, Rory Bolger, Peter Dooley, Shawn Ellis, Jesse Gonzales, W. Kim Heron, Ray Lozano, Roberto Munoz, Jessica Pellegrino, Osvaldo Rivera, Harriet Saperstein, Charlene Snow, Gavin Strassel, and Fred Wood. all have been more than generous with their time and expertise over the years. A debt of gratitude is owed to all of them.


The scholarship of Dr. Thomas Klug and Dr. Steve Babson deserve special mention, as their work served as both a foundation of and an inspiration for the Guide.

Dr. Klug’s Railway Cars, Bricks, and Salt: Southwest Detroit Industrial History Before Auto report prepared for a 1999 Southwest Detroit Business Association planning project documents the mid-19th century hardships faced by workers in the neighborhood’s brickworks. The report’s overview of factories, and his Industrial Map of Southwest Detroit (1897 – 1905), are must reads for anyone interested in Southwest Detroit history.

Dr. Babson was the principal researcher, lead author, and scriptwriter for the signature projects of the Detroit Labor History Tour project from 1979 through 1994. Excerpts from his book Working Detroit have been incorporated into the Guide to provide extra context.

Click to view:

Detroit Labor History Tours to access a free download of Working Detroit and to order Rivera’s Labor Legacy: The Detroit Murals DVD that debuted on Detroit Public Television in 1991 and was rebroadcast in 2010.