Science & Technology



Remembering the 1932 Ford Hunger March: Detroit park honors labor and environmental history

Paul Draus, University of Michigan-Dearborn, The Conversation on

Published in Science & Technology News

The intersection of Fort Street and Oakwood Boulevard in southwest Detroit today functions mostly as a thoroughfare for trucks and commuters.

However, as you sit idling at the stoplight waiting to cross the bridge over the Rouge River, you might glance to the side and see something unexpected in this heavily industrialized area: A sculpture of weathered steel reaches toward the sky alongside a spray of flowers and waves of grasses and people fishing.

This inconspicuous corner, now the home of the Fort Street Bridge Park, has several stories to tell: of a river, a region, a historic conflict and an ongoing struggle.

If you pull over, you’ll enter a place that attempts to pull together threads of history, environment and sustainable redevelopment.

Signs explain why this sculpture and park are here: to honor the memory of protesters who met on this very spot on March 7, 1932, before marching up Miller Road to the massive Ford Rouge River Complex located in the adjacent city of Dearborn.

As a sociology professor, I have a strong interest in how the history of labor and industrial pollution have influenced Detroit.


I’m also interested in the potential for environmental restoration or “green reparations” to offer a new way forward.

To understand this potential future, we must first recognize and honor the past.

In their book “Labor’s Untold Story”, published in 1955, journalist Richard Boyer and historian Herbert Morais quote a contemporary account of the Hunger March:

It was early, it was cold when the first of the unemployed Ford workers (many of whom had been laid off the day before) arrived at Baby Creek Bridge. They were a small gray group and they stood slapping their sides, warding off the cold, and wondering if they alone would come.


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