Reviewing June Manning Thomas’ Redevelopment and Race

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This is the new paperback edition of a book originally published in ’97, Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit (Wayne State University Press), and, as Thomas says in the new preface, the “book is as important today as it was when first published.”

She’s right too; over 15 years after the book first came out, Detroit would still do well to embrace a plan for a finer city, certainly in terms of modern evolution. Detroit has so much to offer within the realms of the arts, culture, entertainment, sports, and business opportunities, but it all often gets lost under a cloud of bankruptcy and crime.

Thomas says that, “Rereading this book again only highlights how dramatic Detroit’s evolution has been. This is a story filled with hope, vision, heart-break and frustration; it is a story of both heroic acts and villainous deeds, but mostly good intentions.”

Isn’t that refreshing – to know that no matter how naïve, most of the mistakes made in Detroit were made with good intentions? The road to Hell, blah blah. At least hearts are in the right place.

So Thomas examines postwar development, and the 1949 urban renewal act, aimed at eliminating slums. She goes through the Coleman Young years, and takes a long, hard look at existing racial disunity. She’s frank and honest, but always hopeful.

That’s really the approach that we should all take.

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