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Thomas W. Stephens Papers

Identifier: UP001747

Scope and Content

The Thomas W. Stephens Collection consists of correspondence, reports, meeting minutes, legal documents, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, flyers, newsletters and other material related primarily to his environmental justice concerns, but also to other issues, including globalization and trade policy and the potential conflict between environmental justice and economic growth. Important subjects in the collection: Brown et al. v. Combustion Engineering et al. Citizens' Resistance at Fermi 2 (CRAFT) Detroit trash incinerator Ecology Center of Ann Arbor Environmental justice/environmental racism Environmental justice -- legal aspects Environmental protection -- Great Lakes Evergreen Alliance Fermi 2 Nuclear Power Station Ford Rouge plant -- Environmental aspects Green movement -- Citizen participation -- Michigan, Southeastern Guild Law Center Hamtramck medical waste incinerator Incinerators -- Environmental aspects -- Michigan, Southeastern Jury selection -- Michigan -- Wayne County Landfills -- Environmental aspects -- Michigan, Southeastern Michigan Air Pollution Control Commission Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition NAACP-Flint Chapter et al. v. Engler et al. NAFTA Nuclear power plants -- environmental aspects -- Michigan, Southeastern Recycling (Waste, etc.) -- Michigan, Southeastern

Important correspondents in the collection: Neal Bush Jessie Deerinwater Lynn Fiedler Sara Gleicher Russell Harding Bella Marshall Robert P. Miller Kary Moss Fr. Philip Schmitter Harold Stokes


  • 1978 - 2003


Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.


Collection is open for research.


Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. Restrictions: Researchers may encounter records of a sensitive nature – personnel files, case records and those involving investigations, legal and other private matters. Privacy laws and restrictions imposed by the Library prohibit the use of names and other personal information which might identify an individual, except with written permission from the Director and/or the donor.


The environmental justice movement, forged in the wake of the Love Canal incident, brought a social justice orientation to environmental protection issues. With roots in the civil rights, labor and peace movements, it has enlisted thousands of grassroots groups to fight pollution at its source in low-income, often minority, communities and to advocate for sustainable development.

Tom Stephens began his involvement with environmental justice in 1986 when he became a founding member of the Evergreen Alliance, a group of community activists that coordinated resistance to the construction of the world's largest trash incinerator in Detroit. Unsuccessful in that struggle, in 1991 Stephens, an attorney with the Detroit law firm of Goodman, Lister, Seikaly and Peters, brought suit under the Michigan Environmental Protection Act against the owners and operators of the trash incinerator, seeking a permanent shutdown of the facility.

Stephens convinced the National Lawyers Guild's Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice (GLC), headquartered in Detroit, to adopt environmental justice as part of its litigation program and in 1997 served as cooperating counsel in the GLC's Title VI litigation (NAACP-Flint Chapter v. Engler) to stop construction of a wood waste incinerator in a community with a large African-American, working-class population north of Flint, the first civil lawsuit of its kind in the country. Stephens was also a founder of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition and chaired the National Lawyers Guild's Toxics Committee.


12 Linear Feet (12 SB)


Thomas Stephens was a founder of the Evergreen Alliance, the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition and chaired the National Lawyer's Guild's Toxics Committee in his fight for environmental justice in the Detroit area. His papers reflect his interest and legal work in this arena and related issues, particularly lawsuits involving incinerators in Detroit and Flint, MI.


Folders are arranged alphabetically.


The papers of Thomas W. Stephens were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in June of 2000 and November of 2003 by Mr. Stephens.

Processing History

Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in December 2006.
Guide to the Thomas W. Stephens Papers
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA