history

Stateside
5:44 pm
Wed October 15, 2014

What Northern amnesia can't block out: Slaves helped build Detroit

Credit Ian Freimuth / Flickr

If you grew up in Michigan, your history books showed you images of slavery: black men and women picking cotton in the South.

Michigan, we learned, was a very important part of the Underground Railroad, helping African-Americans across the border to freedom in Canada.

But what we weren’t taught was this: Slavery helped build Detroit.

Some of the best-known names used for roads, counties, cities and schools around Southeast Michigan belong to old families who owned slaves.

Bill McGraw dug into "Detroit's Big Bad Secret" for Deadline Detroit.

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Stateside
6:39 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

Students in some Michigan high schools learn history of nearly 14 billion years in one course

One of the assignments in the Big History course is to have students use their personal narratives to understand the importance of scale.
Credit User: Big History Project / facebook

 

If you had a typical American high school experience, chances are you trudged through the day, going from one period to another – maybe starting with algebra, then over to American lit, then chemistry or biology, on to history, and so on.

History in particular gets a bum rap, with grumbling about memorizing dates and names.

What's missing? A sense of all of this knowledge being connected.

Enter the Big History Project. Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has become a champion of this new way to teach history, and he's using his own money to develop this new history curriculum for high schools.

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Stateside
4:56 pm
Mon September 22, 2014

Classic rock born in Michigan almost 30 years ago

Credit mconnors / morgueFile

Is there anyone who hasn't scanned the radio dial on a long road trip and endured noisy static,  angry talk shows, and music that disappoints  in a desperate search for a classic rock station?

But who knew the classic rock concept was born in Michigan almost 30 years ago?

Fred Jacobs, an Oakland County-based radio consultant, was part of that birth in 1985. He said WMMQ in Charlotte, Michigan, was the first classic rock station, and the format quickly spread across the country.

Jacobs said he was inspired by complaints from listeners who couldn't find the music they had grown up with and loved. 

Jacobs said classic rock is not the same as "golden oldies." It is about the golden age of rock – music people will still be listening to in 100 years. 

Jacobs said classic rock started with music from the 60s and 70s and musicians like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, and Eric Clapton. 

But he said it's all about the music of your youth that you never get tired of hearing.  And as generations move on, classic rock has added 80s and even more recent music to its roster.

Stateside
8:20 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Reflecting on the Armenian genocide, 100 years later

Orphan home in Aleppo, Syria in 1920.
Credit User: George Swain of the University of Michigan / facebook

Next April will mark the 100th anniversary of one of the great atrocities of the 20th Century: the genocide of up to a million and half Armenians by the Ottoman Empire.

Scholars have acknowledged this to be one of the first modern genocides. 

The beginning of the genocide is considered to be April 24, 1915, the day 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders in Istanbul were arrested.

Men were conscripted or killed. Women, children and elderly went on the death march toward deserts in Syria. 

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Culture
1:07 pm
Fri September 12, 2014

University of Michigan band will help mark 'Star-Spangled Banner' bicentennial

The flag flying at Fort McHenry today. Francis Scott Key wrote the poem "Defence of Fort McHenry" on September 14, 1814. He was inspired by a battle he witnessed there.
user Bohemian Baltimore Wikimedia Commons

A tune that reverberates through ballparks, auditoriums and community gatherings is getting an amped-up workout during its 200th anniversary.

One of the biggest and flashiest salutes to "The Star-Spangled Banner" comes Saturday at the University of Michigan. The Ann Arbor school's marching band, a 500-voice choir and dance team combine during a football halftime show.

The university also plans a sing-along Friday, the same day it opens an exhibit on the national anthem's cultural history.

More from AP:

Major festivities also are happening in Baltimore, including a flag-raising ceremony Sunday at Fort McHenry National Monument. That's where Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics on Sept. 14, 1814, during a pivotal War of 1812 battle.

Many events nationwide are encouraged by the Star Spangled Music Foundation. It's founded by Michigan musicology professor Mark Clague.

9/11
11:39 am
Thu September 11, 2014

Here's how Michigan taxpayers came to own the designs for the original World Trade Center

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in 2000.
Joshua Schwimmer Flickr

The state of Michigan owns public parks, roads, buildings, and even some historic artifacts. Among those artifacts are the original architectural drawings of the World Trade Center.

This is a story of how the state of Michigan – its taxpayers – came to own the works.

Thousands of people visit the 9-11 Memorial in New York every day.

Children play by the fountain that surrounds the footprint of what once were the world’s tallest buildings. Some people take the time to read at least some of the names of the people who died here on 9-11.

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Stateside
12:20 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Decades after a summer job up north, this man writes an insider account of Mackinac Island

Mackinac Island
Credit User: Mackinac Island - Mackinac.com / facebook

You just never know what that summer job during college might do. It just might affect the course of your life and send you down a path you'd never expect.

Dennis Cawthorne's summer job in 1960 found him on Mackinac Island. He was a kid who was standing on the street and enticing tourists onto horse-drawn tour wagons and taxis.

That humble summer job led to some 50 years of living and working on Mackinac Island for Cawthorne. He has been a lawyer, a state legislator, the chairman of the Mackinac Island State Park Commission and much more.

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Stateside
6:59 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

What's on tap? The Detroit Drunken Historical Society

Detroit Drunken Historical Society's recent meet-up explored the Belle Isle history
Credit User: UpNorth Memories - Donald (Don) Harrison / Flickr

Some organizations these days are having a hard time getting new people involved. Classical music groups have been struggling to appeal to new fans. And plenty of arts and culture groups have a tough time attracting members.

It turns out, historical societies are also having a tough time. And that’s something that Michigan Radio’s Kyle Norris has been looking into.

Norris says the problem is that these societies tend to be older, and getting new blood is not going so well in general.

But that’s not an issue for Amy Elliott Bragg, a co-organizer for the Detroit Drunken Historical Society.

It's a meet-up group that hosts monthly activities at local bars in Detroit for people to come out and learn about history. Bragg says there's no commitment, the gatherings are easy to attend, and all are welcome.

“We have found that there are people who might not be immersed in the library in their historic text all night, but they enjoy history, they are interested in it. They want to weigh in,” says Bragg.

* Listen to the interview with Amy Elliott Bragg above.

Stateside
5:20 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

The rise and fall of Michigan's Northland Mall

Northland Mall in the early years
Credit User: Michelle Welter‎ / facebook

“If you want to talk about the shopping mall, there are two things you have to talk about: the car and Detroit."

That’s NPR business reporter Sonari Glinton, who’s looking into the history of malls for a series with youth radio.

In his series, Glinton used Northland Center in Southfield as "exhibit A" of the rise and fall of the American mall.

Northland was one of the first shopping malls in the region. Glinton says its opening represented the moment of change for Detroit.

“1954, when this mall was opened, was the peak of receipts in downtown Detroit. It's as if they built this mall and said, OK, we're moving to the suburbs."

The glory days of Northland were the 1950s and '60s. And for decades, malls in general have been an icon of American life.

Today, the mall is threatened by the Internet and changing consumer expectations.

But that doesn’t mean the malls are necessarily dying. As Glinton explains, “They are going through a transition, and we are going to see the difference in the years to come.” 

* Listen to the interview with Sonari Glinton above.

Arts & Culture
7:15 am
Thu August 21, 2014

3 things struggling historical groups can do to attract more people

Guests at a Romanian wedding reception in Detroit in 1936.
Credit Metro Detroit Ethnic Communities Collection/Walter P. Reuther Library

There’s a joke that historical organizations are stuck in the past when it comes to how they do things. You know, like they don’t have a grasp on using social media, and their museums and events are outdated and uninspiring.

And that joke might extend to the people who run historical organizations – many of whom are senior citizens and have often run their group in the same way for a long time.

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Stateside
6:23 pm
Thu August 14, 2014

Revisiting a moment in time at Michigan's drive-in theaters

The Capri Drive-In in Coldwater, Michigan is still operating in 2014.
Credit User: All Things Michigan / Flickr

Whether you were a little kid jumping into your pajamas before Mom and Dad loaded up the station wagon, or a teenager looking for a little "privacy" on a date, the drive-in theater could be a pretty magical place.

The very first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933. But it sure didn't take long for Michiganders to catch on to drive-ins. They opened up in virtually every corner of the state.

Harry Skrdla channeled his happy boyhood memories of going to the drive-in to come up with a book for the Images of America series. It's called Michigan's Drive-in Theaters.

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Arts & Culture
4:48 pm
Fri July 18, 2014

Detroit celebrates its 313th birthday next week

Credit Detroit Historical Society

Detroit turns 313 years old next week. The Detroit Historical Society is celebrating with a week's worth of programming beginning tomorrow. 

July 24th marks the day when the French explorer Antoine Cadillac landed on what would later become the city of Detroit.

Each day the group will host a different event- including storytelling, a classic car show, and film screenings.

Bob Sadler is with the Detroit Historical Society. He said celebrating the city is especially important now.

"And based on Detroit’s history of being a hard-working, very creative and entrepreneurial town, I have every reason to believe that we’re reinventing ourselves again," said Sadler. 

Some of the events include: Arsenal of Democracy, Detroit is America’s Motor City, The Streets of Old Detroit, and one of the newer exhibits, the Gallery of Innovation. 

The Detroit Historical Museum is in Midtown Detroit. All of the week's events are free.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Stateside
5:47 pm
Thu July 17, 2014

Michigan fish hatcheries, then and now

A state hatchery in Grayling, MI
Credit Don...The UpNorth Memor / flickr

In early July, state officials approved a significant expansion of a northern Michigan commercial fish hatchery’s operations after requiring additional measures to protect the cherished Au Sable River. It got us wondering: how important are fish hatcheries in the Great Lakes State and what is their role?

Gary Whelan joined us today. He is with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources where he's a Research Program Manager.

Whelan said the first hatcheries began in the early 1870’s. Even back then, fishery resources were in decline. The habitat loss was frightening. Fish were difficult to find, and commercial fishermen weren’t doing very well. One of the responses was to build fish hatcheries.

Today, there are six state hatcheries and three federal hatcheries in Michigan.

Whelan pointed out that fish hatcheries can help bring the lakes into balance.

“Using salmons in water where we have way too many prey species can make it into a balanced system that functions properly, ” Whelan said.

* Listen to our conversation with Whelan above.

Arts & Culture
10:40 am
Wed July 16, 2014

A delicate piece of art history in Jackson, Michigan is geting a little help

Glass mural with moving lights from the foyer of the old Consumers Energy building in Jackson, Michigan, shortly before the building was demolished
Credit Chrystal Weesner / Pinterest

A piece of Jackson’s art history, which narrowly avoided the wrecking ball, may soon have new life.

The 28' x 9' glass mural depicting the history of electric power hung in Consumers Energy’s old Jackson headquarters for more than four decades.   

Preservationists were able to save it from the wrecking ball that brought the building down last year. The mural was disassembled and has been in storage ever since.

The plan now is to reconstruct the glass mural, replace its internal lighting system, and build a new outdoor display to house the mural.

The mural would be placed on the grounds of a new city park being built on the site of the old Consumers Energy headquarters.

“We hope to be able to have the new mural in place by….this time next year,” says Grant Bauman, whose part of the team working on the project.

He says the glass mural will add to the mix of public art in downtown Jackson.

This month, the project received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Organizers still need to raise about $200,000 for the glass mural project.

A Consumers Energy spokesman says the company has contributed to the preservation of the mural in the past, but has not committed to donating to the current project.

Stateside
11:14 am
Mon July 14, 2014

This Michigan woman was a conductor on the Underground Railroad

Laura Smith Haviland in about 1879.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

When you think of the Underground Railroad, one name you may not recognize is Laura Smith Haviland.

She helped many slaves escape from the South to freedom, and she was from Michigan.

Michigan was a crucial stop on the Underground Railroad.

Before and during the Civil War, many Michiganders helped slaves escape to freedom in Canada by crossing the border in Port Huron or Detroit.

In 1832, Laura Haviland co-founded the Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society and the Raisin Institute, which became a safe space for African American fugitives of slavery and attracted black settlers in Michigan.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Haviland traveled between Michigan, Ohio, and Canada assisting slaves in escapes, teaching African American students, and making public anti-slavery speeches.

Southern slave owners had a $3,000 reward for her capture.

Tiya Miles is chair of the Department of African-American Studies at the University of Michigan and will be a keynote speaker at the National Underground Railroad Conference being held in Detroit this week.

“Laura Haviland was an incredible woman, and she is someone who faced daunting challenges that you and I - I don’t think, could ever imagine,” Miles said.

Miles said that women were not expected to be independent and involved in political issues at this time. There was a lot of criticism of her from her fellow abolitionists. She was seen as someone who outright rejected the conservative gender roles.

The National Parks Service is hosting its annual conference on the Underground Railroad in Detroit from July 16 to July 20. The theme is "Women and the Underground Railroad."

*Listen to the full interview above

Stateside
5:20 pm
Thu July 3, 2014

University of Michigan professor uncovers surprising history of "The Star-Spangled Banner"

U of M School of Music, Theater and Dance Professor Scott Piper and pianist Michael Carpenter at Stamps Auditorium, performing "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Credit Courtesy of Mark Clague

It’s one of the most stirring and glorious melodies ever sung – and it can be one of the easiest tunes to sing badly.

But did you know that our national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” started out as an English club song? And it has officially been the national anthem for less than a century?

Mark Clague is a musicologist with the University of Michigan. He’s been working on a project, “Poets and Patriots: A Tuneful History of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’” 

Today, he shared some of that history with us.

* Listen to the full interview above. 

This segment originally aired on February 12, 2014.

Stateside
12:01 pm
Wed July 2, 2014

Where do auto museums flourish? Surprisingly, not in Michigan

All F1 Car story in Automobiles Museum of Turin
Credit Wikimedia Commons

There are many different auto museums – some dedicated to displaying cars with unique engineering and designs, and others dedicated to displaying the automobile’s impact on society.

Michigan's auto museums have had little success. Flint’s "Autoworld" theme park closed two years after opening, and the Walter P. Chrysler Museum closed its doors recently.

Europe has had a different experience.

Autostadt, which means “auto city” in German, is in Wolfsburg, Germany. It averages about two million visitors per year. BMW and Porsche also have notable museums in Germany.

Why do auto museums in Europe succeed, while those in the auto capital of the world have not?

“Europeans seem to have such a deep bond with their vehicles,” says Paul Eisenstein, publisher of  The Detroit Bureau. “They are seemingly more interested in the mechanicals and what have you. They have a tendency to be drawn to automotive exhibits, museums, parks, and everything at a much greater rate than Americans are.”

*Listen to our interview with Eisenstein at 3 p.m. today. We'll post the audio for that interview here around 4:30 p.m. 

Stateside
11:49 am
Wed July 2, 2014

"Autoworld" opened its doors in Flint 30 years ago

1913 Studebaker Type 35 Model AA, Autoworld Brussels
Credit Wikimedia Commons

30 years ago, "Autoworld" opened its doors on July 4, 1984 in Flint, Michigan.

It was an indoor theme park and museum dedicated to preserving and spreading automotive achievements.  

Bill Shea, editor and reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, said that the attraction wasn’t that popular and visitors were confused about what Autoworld was.

Was it supposed to be a museum or a theme park?

This led people to ask why a group of people invested $80 million into the endeavor.

Organizers hoped Autoworld would revitalize the inner city of Flint, develop Michigan’s tourism industry, and preserve the automotive history in the city.

But, in 1987, the attraction closed its doors permanently. Here's a video of them imploding the building from ABC News:

*You can hear our interview with Bill Shea today at 3 p.m. We'll add the interview to this post at 4:30 p.m.

Stateside
7:38 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Sharing the songs that saved your life

You get a taste of a bigger story as people mention the songs that saved their lives, such as this one – Summer of '69 by Bryan Adams.
Credit User: Klaus Hiltscher / flickr

Today we’re starting a new series about music. We’re calling it "What’s the Song That Saved Your Life?"

Stateside’s Kyle Norris asked a lot of people that question. She found that sometimes they have an immediate answer. And other people really have to think about it.  Kyle talked with folks at a bowling alley in Wayne, Michigan, and shares their responses.

*Listen to full interview above.

All this week we’re going to hear from people who say one song saved their life. And we want to hear from you. Do you have a song that saved your life? Tell us the story! Call us and let us know at 248-962-3806. And you can also use #song-saved-me on twitter. Stateside's Kyle Norris produced our series, and she may even use your story on the air.

Opinion
10:16 am
Fri June 13, 2014

Detroit pulled off a miracle during WWII; can it do the same thing today?

For months, we’ve been embroiled in Detroit’s bankruptcy and attempts to save what there is worth saving.

It is hard to pick up any national publication without finding stories about Detroit, few of them good. There are a spate of new book titles too, which mostly chronicle the city’s decline and fall.

Yet I’ve just been reading an utterly fascinating and inspiring new book about a time when Detroit really did save, or at least help save, the world.

The book, just published by Houghton Mifflin, is The Arsenal of Democracy: FDR, Ford Motor Company, and Their Epic Quest to Arm an America at War.

This is a book with characters larger and more bizarre than life. It tells the story of a Detroit-based triumph that the experts said was impossible. And every word in it is true.

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