Special Focus: Racism in Detroit

The world was changing by World War II, causing some white residents to react to their Black neighbors in discriminatory and sometimes violent ways. Large numbers of Black workers migrated from the South hoping for economic opportunity and, later, Black servicemen returned from war expecting full rights under the democracy they had served. Leaders of progressive organizations like the United Automobile Workers also advocated for racial equality, though the rank and file did not always share such sentiments.


Amid this change, groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the Klan-inspired Black Legion thrived on white fear. Like Black migrants, many white newcomers to the Detroit area had roots in the South. They believed, for example, that white residents had a right to Detroit’s limited housing stock and better-paying jobs with greater social status. 

Publication, The Kourier, Ku Klux Klan, 1936

Front cover of the Ku Klux Klan’s national publication, The Kourier. June 1936.

Flyer, Sojourner Truth Citizens Committee, Ku Klux Klan, 1942

Flyer published by the Sojourner Truth Citizens Committee to rally support for integrated housing at the Sojourner Truth Housing Project. 1942.

Newspaper, United Automobile Worker Packard Local 190, "Ku Klux Klan Member Exposed," 1942

Headline from the United Automobile Worker: Local 190 Packard Edition. February 15, 1942.

Flyer, Farmer-Labor Party of Wayne County, Black Legion, 1930s

Flyer printed by the Farmer-Labor Party of Wayne County in opposition to the Black Legion. 1930s.