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 fight for sustainability and environmental justice is another major theme of the park, which chronicles the history of the Rouge River, including the day in 1969 when the oily water infamously caught fire.

The hellish image of burning rivers helped motivate the signing of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts, as well as the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The air and water in and around Detroit are much cleaner today than they were 1969. But this doesn’t change the fact that the area where the park sits bears a disproportionate burden of the pollution generated by the region’s industrial production, which includes cement plants, gypsum and aggregates processors, salt mining and asphalt storage, as well as a steel mill and petroleum refinery.

Another donor to the park is Marathon Petroleum Corporation whose Detroit Refinery occupies the adjoining neighborhood. Though Marathon has invested in the development of green spaces on its own property, the refinery has also expanded in recent years, further degrading the local environment.

Research shows that workers benefit from unionization in myriad ways, not only directly but indirectly. But recent labor victories by the UAW, Hollywood writers and other organizers stand in stark contrast to the long-term erosion of union membership.


Today, the Fort Street Bridge Park in southwest Detroit serves to remind us of the complexities of history and how apparent progress in one area may be followed by a setback somewhere else. It also represents how the spirit of community, unbroken, keeps pushing for something better.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization bringing you facts and trustworthy analysis to help you make sense of our complex world. It was written by: Paul Draus, University of Michigan-Dearborn

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Paul Draus is affiliated with Friends of the Rouge and Downriver Delta CDC, two nonprofit organizations involved with the Fort Street Bridge Park. He is also the facilitator of the Fort-Rouge Gateway (FRoG) Partnership, a coalition of representatives from nonprofit, community-based, academic and industry that is focused on the sustainable redevelopment of the industrial Rouge region.


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