Detroit Research and Exploration

This guide is developed for people who want to know more about or who are researching topics relating to the City of Detroit.

Background Information

Digital Collections at Wayne State University Libraries

Detroit, 1860, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University 

Books in the WSU Collection about the History of Detroit

Detroit City is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis

Once America's capitalist dream town, Detroit is our country's greatest urban failure, having fallen the longest and the farthest. But the city's worst crisis yet (and that's saying something) has managed to do the unthinkable: turn the end of days into a laboratory for the future. Urban planners, land speculators, neopastoral agriculturalists, and utopian environmentalists―all have been drawn to Detroit's baroquely decaying, nothing-left-to-lose frontier.

Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes

Untold Tales, Unsung Heroes: An Oral History of Detroit's African American Community, 1918-1967

More than one hundred individuals who lived in Detroit at some time during the period from 1918 to 1967 share stories about everyday life-families and neighborhoods, community and religious life, school and work. They also describe extraordinary events-the great migration from the South, the depression, World War II, the 1943 race riot, the civil rights movement, the civil disturbance of 1967, and the Vietnam War. Their anecdotal testimonies and reminiscences provide invaluable information about the institutions, lifestyles, relationships, and politics that constitute the black experience in Detroit.

On This Day in Detroit History

One day at a time, discover colorful Motor City moments in history spanning more than three centuries.  On November 5, 1851, Voice of the Fugitive published a letter in support of escaped slaves.  On July 3, 1904, Monk Parry became the first money to drive a car, and on January 16, 1919, the Statler Hotel menu offered whale meat for dinner.  The legendary Steve Yzerman was named captain of the Red Wings on October 7, 1986.  Local historian Bill Loomis covers the big events and remarkable stories of life and culture from Detroit's founding to its recent struggles and rebirth.

The 1967 Detroit Riots

The 1967 Detroit Riots (Perspectives on Modern World History)

How an event is remembered depends on the people who record it. The broadest possible understanding of history comes from exploring multiple perspectives: from different time periods, different cultures, different ideologies. The Perspectives on Modern World History series provides multiple views of momentous events in recent history. Using primary and secondary sources, each volume provides background information on a significant event in modern world history, presents the controversies surrounding the event, and offers first-person narratives from people who lived through or were impacted by the event. All volumes in the series include an annotated table of contents, a chronology, a bibliography, and a subject index.

Detroit: A Biography

Detroit: A Biography

At its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, Detroit's status as epicenter of the American auto industry made it a vibrant, populous, commercial hub—and then the bottom fell out. Detroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America's great cities and one of the nation's greatest urban failures. This authoritative yet accessible narrative seeks to explain how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from nearly two million residents in 1950 to less than 715,000 some six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deeply ingrained racism. 

Detroit's Delectable Past

Detroit's Delectable Past

Join local food aficionado Bill Loomis on a look back at the appetites, tastes, kitchens, parties, holidays and everyday meals that defined eating in Detroit, from the earliest days as a French village to the start of the twentieth century. Whether it's at a frontier farmers' market, a Victorian twelve-course children's birthday party replete with tongue sandwiches or a five-cent-lunch diner, food is a main ingredient in a community's identity and history. While showcasing favorite fare of the day, this book also explores historic foodways--how locals fished the Detroit River, banished flies from kitchens without screens and harvested frog legs with miniscule shotguns. Wedding feasts, pioneer grub, cooking classes and the thriftless '20s are all on the menu, too.

Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins

Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City's Majestic Ruins

Lost Detroit tells the stories behind 12 of the city's most beautiful, all-but-forgotten landmarks and of the people behind them, from the day they opened to the day they closed. While these buildings might stand as ghosts of the past today, their stories live on within these pages. The team behind brings you the memories of those who caught trains out of the majestic Michigan Central Station, necked with girlfriends in the balcony of the palatial Michigan Theatre, danced the night away at the Vanity Ballroom and kicked out the jams at the Grande Ballroom. 

Revolutionary Detroit : Portraits in Political and Cultural Change, 1760-1805

The people of Detroit experienced the American revolutionary era in unique ways. More than any locale in North America, it was where French, British, American, and Native American cultures collided and melded during the second half of the eighteenth century. The British takeover of Detroit from the French in 1760 and Pontiac's War in 1763 brought revolutionary changes to the frontier town earlier than most places. Instability also lasted longer. The British did not relinquish control of its largest outpost on the Great Lakes until 1796-thirteen years after the United States won its independence. Ultimately, the American Revolution introduced international boundaries to a region where the Detroit River had always been a highway, not a border.

The Detroit almanac: 300 Years of Life in the Motor City

The Detroit Almanac is the most comprehensive reference book ever assembled on the metro area, with more than 1,000 photos and graphics covering Southeastern Michigan's three eventful centuries.

Detroit: City of Industry

Detroit: City of Industry

Detroit is known worldwide as the automotive capital of the world. What is not widely known is that, prior to the birth of the automobile, a tremendous diversity of manufactured goods transformed Detroit from a frontier town into a great industrial city. This book examines Detroit's development from the 1860s through the 1890s, and its evolution into a leading industrial center of the Midwest.

Detroit: Across Three Centuries

The story of Detroit is told through the eyes, accomplishments and, often, anguish of the people who lived there over the past three hundred years. The interesting and informative text of Detroit Across Three Centuries is heavily supported by art, artifacts, and photos that not only give the reader a glimpse of the citys past, but a look at its present and its future.

This is Detroit, 1701-2001

This is Detroit, 1701-2001

This Is Detroit tells the story in more than 400 pictures of the growth of the oldest city of interior America. Founded in July 1701, Detroit was destined before its birth to be a city of outstanding commercial and political importance, and of talented men and women. This pictorial account of Detroit's 250 years has been assembled from the treasures of the city's foremost institutions-the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Burton Collection of the Detroit Public Library, the Detroit Historical Society, and the enormous files of The Detroit News.

Working Detroit: The Making of a Union Town

Working Detroit: The Making of a Union Town

Babson recounts Detroit's odyssey from a bulwark of the "open shop" to the nation's foremost "union town." Through words and pictures, Working Detroit documents the events in the city's ongoing struggle to build an industrial society that is both prosperous and humane.

Additional Resources on the Web

Local Newspapers

Recommended Databases for Scholarly Articles

Walter P. Reuther Library of Labor and Urban Affairs

The Walter P. Reuther Library, located on the campus of Wayne State University in Detroit, contains millions of primary source documents related to the history of the labor movement, urban affairs, and the Wayne State University Archives. The building is named for UAW President and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) President Walter Reuther.


Reading Room Hours:

Monday-Friday: 10:00am-4:00pm
Saturday-Sunday: Closed
Appointments: Reference Archivist


Walter P. Reuther Library
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit, MI 48202

photo of the Reuther Library outside