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The Arsenal of Democracy
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Detroit is Dynamite.

Life, August 17, 1942

Worker lockers in Arsenal of Democracy galleryIdealistic calls to patriotism, duty and unity often clashed with the stress of daily life on the home front. Many of the people working long hours in factories were new to Michigan, new to the job and new to working together. The lockers in the Arsenal of Democracy gallery hold the stories of individual Michigan workers in Detroit and elsewhere.

Unions adopted nonstrike pledges, but sometimes disputes over wages, production rates and promotions ended in strikes and lockouts.

The increased population strained public services. Traffic congestion and overcrowded housing created friction.

Racial Tension

More than 60,000 African Americans migrated to the Detroit area. Racial tension increased. On June 20, 1943, Detroit exploded in a race riot that resulted in 1,893 arrests, 675 injuries and 45 deaths. Federal troops calmed the city within 24 hours. Afterwards, several groups began to work for better race relations.

We were not only fighting battles as soldiers. We were also fighting something called "segregation," "separation," "apartness."

Captain Hondon Hargrove, Muskegon, MI

Black Michiganians, including Hargrove, who commanded a battery of artillery in the 92nd Infantry (Buffalo) Division, served in segregated units as they had in previous American wars. However, for the first time, all branches of military service were opened to them.

Coleman Young (later mayor of Detroit) was among the African-Americans who trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, to be pilots for the Army Air Corps. Another Detroit Tuskegee airman, Henry Peoples, recalled,

We had two goals, to fly, and to prove we could. A lot of people didn't think blacks could fly.


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