history

Every year the Michigan Humanities Council invites Michiganders to participate in a statewide initiative, the Great Michigan Read. This year’s selection, Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age, explores a crucial moment in the northern Civil Rights movement—the events leading to the trial of African American physician Ossian Sweet and his family.

On September 9th, 1925 Dr. Sweet and his wife Gladys moved into their new home, crossing the color line into an all-white neighborhood on the east side of Detroit.

Two days later, a crowd of whites gathered in the street to drive the family away. Dr. Sweet and 10 others chose to stay, armed and barricaded inside the house, to defend against the mob. Tensions reached their limit and someone fired into the crowd. Two whites were shot and killed, and the 11 people inside the Sweet home were charged with first degree murder.

Michigan Radio’s Jennifer White spoke with Kevin Boyle, author of Arc of Justice.

wikimedia commons

They called him the "boy Governor" because he was elected to be Michigan's first Governor at age 23.

Today is Stevens T. Mason's 200th Birthday.

At noon today, a statement from Michigan's 48th Governor, Rick Snyder, will be read about the state's first Governor. The governor's offices says the statement will be read "during a ceremony honoring Mason hosted by the Michigan Historical Commission." 

The ceremony is at noon today at Detroit’s Capitol Park, "the location of Michigan’s first Capitol and Mason’s burial site."

Here's Governor Snyder's statement:

“The story of Michigan’s first governor is the story of Michigan’s birth.  Although his actions often made him unpopular in his time, today we owe Stevens T. Mason thanks for his relentless pursuit of statehood.

“When Congress refused to act on a petition to grant statehood, Mason initiated a territorial census to prove the territory qualified under the Ordinance of 1787.  When Congress refused to seat Michigan’s delegates, Mason reached a resolution that ended the dispute over the Toledo Territory and gave Michigan the western reaches of the Upper Peninsula.  And when Michigan’s own people refused to accept the terms of this agreement, Mason forged ahead and led a new convention that resulted in Michigan joining the Union.  All by the age of 25. 

“Michigan has a rich, fascinating history of innovators, builders and leaders like Stevens T. Mason who helped turn Michigan’s unsettled wilderness into a state that eventually became an industrial powerhouse.  When we remember them, we remember and are inspired by the qualities of the people who made our state great.” 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Jackson will be the place to be this weekend for Amtrak aficionados. 

The national passenger rail service is marking its 40th anniversary this year.  This weekend, Amtrak is bringing a rolling museum of its four decade history to Jackson’s rail road station. 

Christina Leeds is an Amtrak spokeswoman.  She says passionate lovers of all things Amtrak have been flocking to the rolling exhibit’s previous stops around the country. 

user: Urban Adventures / flickr

(*We're experiencing technical problems with one of the above audio files. Please ignore the "audio processing" message above.)

In 1935, the Detroit Tigers won the World Series. The last time the baseball team won their Division was back in 1987. And now the Tigers will open the playoffs this Friday. While it’s certainly exciting for the team and its fans, is there a larger impact the city and the state can enjoy from a successful sports team?  Michigan Radio's Jack Lessenberry gives us a historical perspective.

Jean Leon Gerome Ferris - Oil on canvas / Library of Congress

Michigan was part of the nation’s outback during the War of Independence. And most of the inhabitants probably liked that just fine. Battlefields are nice places to study, but from what I have seen, no place you’d want to be close to at the time.

Today, there will be speeches urging us to remember that we are all Americans. Some will scold those who are making our government’s present policies, or those who attack them.

Others will say that Americans should be united, just as they were in the days of George Washington and Valley Forge.

But what most people don’t realize is that a substantial minority of Americans at the time – possibly as high as 40 percent -- didn’t want independence. They were called loyalists, or Tories, and a fair number left for Great Britain or Canada, after the other side won the war. Naturally, that left the patriots with no one to bicker with except themselves, which they soon began to do.

President Washington wanted to avoid having political parties. That lasted about five minutes.

Which brings me to my favorite Fourth of July story, one with a moral we can perhaps learn from. It began on the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, and ended exactly 185 years ago today. Two of the founding fathers were, of course, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. They were good buddies on July 4, 1776, when they signed the declaration. Later, however, they each became leaders of the first two political parties.

user SCA / Flickr

We were curious in the newsroom this morning, how did we come to celebrate Cinco de Mayo? A little digging gave me the answer...

"I know I owe you money, but you're going to have to wait."

Imagine if the U.S. government declared to its debtors that it wasn't going to pay on its loans for two years.

Countries like China, Japan, and the United Kingdom probably wouldn't be too happy - they might even send warships to the U.S. coasts demanding their money.

O.k., totally far-fetched, I know. But similar events in the 1860s led to the celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

I realize there are a few other things going on today, such as the mess in Egypt, and the aftermath of President Obama’s historic trip to Marquette, where they gave him a Stormy Kromer hat.

There’s also a major story the media missed last night. Governor Rick Snyder spoke briefly at a Michigan State University political leadership forum in Livonia, remarks that included a sensational announcement.

Mr. Snyder said he would remain in office until the Lions appear in the Super Bowl. Which means he pretty much declared himself governor for life. The Lions last won a world championship the year I entered kindergarten, a year before Governor Snyder was born.

Maybe that’s an approach Hosni Mubarak should have tried, telling his people that the second the Lions won, he’d be history.

Anyway. I need to get on to the really important story of the day, which is the new poll by Resch Strategies that showed that by a margin of fifty-eight percent to twelve percent, citizens of this state prefer to call ourselves Michiganders, not Michiganians.

C. Awreetus

Fifty-two years ago today, a plane crashed in a cornfield outside Mason city, Iowa, killing three musicians, including Buddy Holly.

An article from WLFI in Lafayette, Indiana, sets up the story:

Three up and coming musicians were on what was called “The Winter Dance Party” tour through the Midwest. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson were all about fed up with the tour bus that kept breaking down, the cold weather that had already sent Holly’s drummer to the hospital with frostbite and the long distances between shows.

Holly's frustration with the tour led him to charter a plane to carry the three musicians to the next stop. The plane crashed, killing the musicians as well as the pilot, Roger Peterson.

Gibson.com has this analysis of the legacy of the three rockers, in particular Holly:

Valens and The Big Bopper would be immortalized by the tragedy, while Buddy Holly is still revered as one of the greatest-ever talents in popular music. As Paul McCartney, someone who knows a thing or two about a good tune, once remarked: “At least the first 40 [Beatles] songs we wrote were Buddy Holly-influenced.”

Holly's enduring influence is even more amazing considering his real success lasted less than two years, but with hits like “Peggy Sue” and “Everyday,” it's not hard to see—or hear—why.

Check out this short but sweet clip of Holly performing in Grand Rapids in 1958:

 

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Lynn Davis, Farm Drainage in Ohio
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

A few years back, we at the Environment Report did a comprehensive series called, "The Ten Threats to the Great Lakes." Doing our best to make it comprehensive, we broke each of the Ten Threats into several stories.

We joked that the "Ten Threats" series turned into a 33-part series as we dug deeper into the issues.

For the series, I traveled to northwest Ohio and met with Lynn Davis. His grandfather had started a farm drainage business in 1910 using a steam powered trenching machine. Davis later took over the business from his father and uncle.

Inside the Detroit Produce Terminal
Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson put together this look at the Detroit Produce Terminal. The Terminal was built in 1929 by a railroad company. Produce was shipped in by rail and wholesalers bid on it at an auction. The Terminal has changed but there is still a lot of action in the building, including fights over cauliflower.

Artist rendering of Michigan State Capitol
Michigan Capitol Collection

Michigan Radio's Lester Graham put together this slideshow about the construction of Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing. After the Civil War, many state capitols were built. Graham reports domes were a common feature to show allegiance to the Union (the dome on the U.S. Capitol was constructed during the civil war).

Bentley Historical Library

Fifty years ago today, people in Ann Arbor, Michigan were anticipating the arrival of then Senator John F. Kennedy. He was on the campaign trail in a tight race for the presidency with Richard Nixon.

Pages