Author's Forum Presents: Detroit Chene Street History Project: A Conversation with Marian Krzyzowski, Deborah Dash Moore, and Karen Majewski
Since 2002, the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan has been conducting a study of Detroit’s Chene Street, which cuts through the east side of Detroit from the Detroit River to the General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant at the Hamtramck border. Chene Street was once one of the city’s most vibrant commercial corridors. Home to hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses, many of them run by immigrant families, this thoroughfare was the main artery for the neighborhoods that radiated along its length, as well as their link with each other. It stood at the heart of family, work, and social life for tens of thousands who arrived in Detroit from all over the world, as well as for African Americans migrating from the south. Many of them came to fill the 100,000 automotive industry jobs within walking distance of its neighborhoods. Today, virtually no signs of those neighborhoods remain. Chene Street and its surrounding blocks are among the most devastated and depopulated in the city.
The Detroit Chene Street History Project is developing a comprehensive social and commercial history of the neighborhood that conveys what it felt like to live and work there during the twentieth-century. To date, the project team has accumulated several hundred oral histories from Polish, Jewish, and African American residents and business owners; scanned thousands of photographs and other documents, including ethnic newspapers, church bulletins, organizational records, personal papers, and other ephemera; and tracked individual real estate parcels to provide the foundation for a revealing and richly detailed portrait of Chene Street and its arterial residential and mixed use neighborhoods from 1890 to 1990.
Marian Krzyzowski is the director of the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy at the University of Michigan.
Karen Majewski is the mayor of Hamtramck and is a project manager at University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy.
Deborah Dash Moore is the director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and a Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of History at the University of Michigan.