Detroit Now & Then: Unrest

1942: Sojourner Truth Housing Projects

The first large waves of black immigrants to Detroit came during the First and Second World War, when southern blacks were drawn to the city by the promise of higher wages and a better standard of living. Their arrival came at a time when Detroit was already experiencing a severe housing shortage, exacerbated by the sudden increase in wartime production and demand for workers.

To alleviate the housing shortage, federally funded housing projects were established in neighborhoods throughout the city. Initially the housing projects were racially segregated, with some set-aside for white residents, and others for black residents. The decision to built the Sojourner Truth housing project near a white neighborhood in 1941 led to protests from nearby residents, who sought to prevent blacks from moving in, leading to one of the first major racial conflicts.

On February 27th, 1942, hundreds of whites gathered along Nevada Street near the Sojourner Truth homes to protest and intimidate black families as they tried to move in.

Today the Sojourner Truth Housing Project is part of a stable neighborhood. The housing project was renovated in the 1970's, using the original buildings, but updating the interiors and exteriors.

Original photo: February, 1942. Walter P. Reuther Library
Current photo: September, 2013