As much as one-fifth of workers in the American auto industry are African-American. This piece looks at the rise and fall of the two.
"The story of the rise of America's black working and middle classes is inextricably bound up with that of Detroit and the Big Three. It is not a story with a simple upward trajectory. For a long time, blacks were relegated to the least desirable jobs in the plants and initially confined to a small ghetto on the East Side of the city. But slowly, haltingly, over the course of the 1950s and early '60s, the plants became fully integrated and black workers spread across Detroit block by block, moving the city's de facto color line as they went. 'It wasn't that long ago that Detroit was the home of the nation's most affluent African-American population with the largest percentage of black homeowners and the highest comparative wages,' David Goldberg, an African-American Studies professor at Wayne State University, told me.
Autoworkers still make up much of what is left of Detroit's black middle class, but their numbers are shrinking fast."