Educational resources for:

Motor City and Motown


The automobile promoted an industry, a culture, and a complex multicultural community of migrants from the South and immigrants from abroad, a mixture of profit and communitarian ideals that describes Detroit's unique position in the American urban dynamic. These ABJ shows reflect on black Detroit, the automobile as its signature icon, and its modern significance in American life.

Featured Show Clips & Comprehension Questions

Related Videos

Berry Gordy describes persisting in the pursuit of his dream

Berry Gordy discusses how he got Motown started with financial support from his family

Berry Gordy explains why he decided to write his autobiography

Earl Graves and Dave Bing describe blacks getting into more diversified businesses and the role of federal support for minority businesses

Earl Graves and Dave Bing discuss the factors affecting the economic influence of African Americans

Earl Graves responds to a caller's question about black consumers supporting black businesses

Mel Farr and Charles Harrell, auto dealership owners, respond to a caller's question about the importance of dealer location and customers' credit

Nathan Conyers discusses the number of black-owned automobile dealerships

Panelists discuss reluctance of black consumers to buy cars from black dealers

Thematic Questions

What connections do you see between the issues raised in these programs?
How does Detroit's history as a working-class, industrial city get expressed in such issues as public housing or the creation of Motown Records?
What connections do you see between the issues of black entrepreneurship raised by Dave Bing and Earl Graves and the experience of Berry Gordy?


Automobile in American Life and Society
A project of the University of Michigan-Dearborn to serve as a resource for the Science and Technology Studies Program at the University. Covers the subjects of design, environment, gender, labor and race. Accessible to the general public and provides teacher resources to accompany subject area discussion.

Classic Motown
Motown Records official site. Includes artist profiles, tour and recording information, and audio and video clips.

In Motion: The African-American Migration Experience
An exhibit presented by Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Chronicles the numerous migration experiences of Africans and Haitians to America and African-Americans within the country, including the migrations that brought people to Detroit.

Motown Historical Museum
Official site of "Hitsville U.S.A." Provides a brief history of Motown and the recording studio, as well as visitor information.

United Auto Workers
Official site for the United Auto Workers. Contains news and information about the union and its members. The "history" section includes information on the African-American worker, Detroit, and UAW's efforts in the Civil Rights Movement.

Related Films

Motown: The Early Years.
DVD. 40 minutes.
Directed by T.J. Lubinsky. PBS, 2005.
A combination of recent performances and vintage film clips of Motown performers. Includes interviews with label recording artists.

Struggles in Steel.
VHS. 58 minutes.
San Francisco: California Newsreel, 1996.
A documentary on the struggles of African American steelworkers in America. Contains interviews of more than 70 workers placed in historical context from the Homestead Strike of 1892 through the Great Migration and the Civil Rights Movement to the closure of mills in the late 20th century.

Finally Got The News.
VHS. 55 minutes.
New York: First Run/Icarus Films, 2003.
Documentary on the League of Revolutionary Black Workers. Focuses on the organization’s activities inside and out of Detroit’s auto factories and the UAW as they tackle workplace issues facing all autoworkers.


Fujita, Kuniko. Black Worker’s Struggles in Detroit’s Auto Industry, 1935-1975. Saratoga, California: Century Twenty One Pub. 1980

Gordy, Berry. To Be Loved: The Music, the Magic and the Memories of Motown. New York: Warner Books, 1994.
Autobiography of Motown’s founder and his experiences with the company and its artists.

McShane, Clay. Down the Asphalt Path: The Automobile and the American City. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
An examination of transportation and its effects on urbanization, with a particular focus on how the automobile shaped the American city.

Meier, August and Elliot Rudwick. Black Detroit and the Rise of the UAW. New edition, with forward by Joe W. Trotter. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007.
A labor history classic that discusses the social and institutional relationships between Detroit’s black community and white institutions that defined their work environment.

Smith, Suzanne E. Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Examination of Motown records birth and growth in the context of grassroots black cultural politics in Detroit.

Additional Show Clips & Comprehension Questions

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