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Coleman Young Papers

 Collection
Identifier: UP000449
Part I: The papers in this collection reflect the years of Young's state senatorial service.

Important subjects are: Automobile Insurance Legislation; Aid to Disadvantaged (see School Aid Formula); Fiscal Reform; Open Housing Legislation; Urban Renewal Legislation; Civil Rights Election Campaign, 1966; Police-Community Relations; Mayor's Committee for Human Resources Development; New Detroit, Inc.

Among the correspondents are: Brickley, James H.; Cavanagh, Jerome P.; Diggs, Charles C.; Girardin, Ray; Hood, Nicholas; Humphrey, Hubert; Mazey, Emil; Mazey, Ernest; Ravitz, Mel; Richardson, Robert; Romney, George

Contents: Correspondences, reports, minutes, press releases, mailing lists, and newspaper clippings. Part I covers 1964-1973.
Part II: The materials in Part II of this collection represent a portion of Coleman A. Young’s correspondence and other documents from his tenure as mayor of Detroit, 1973-1993. There is one box of materials dating from his years as a state senator, which relates to the materials in Part I of the collection. The bulk of Part II consists of correspondence, much of it separated as outgoing and incoming, dating from 1974 through 1993, from a wide variety of city departments and county, state and federal entities, There are also a small number of speeches and calendars/planners from 1974-1993. The collection ends with reports and subject files. Forty-two oversize scrapbooks contain newspaper clippings from 1974-1992.

Series Decription: Series I: State Senatorial Years Documents from Young’s state senatorial years, including legislative record, subject files, and clippings. See also C.A. Young Collection, Part I (Boxes 1-17).

Series II: Outgoing Correspondence This series is primarily outgoing correspondence, with occasional incoming correspondence. The outgoing correspondence files were labeled “Green,” as part of the filing system in the mayor’s office. Correspondents include many individual citizens writing to the mayor with comments and concerns, as well as civic and neighborhood associations and clubs; school and university teachers and administrators; the media; religious, business and union leaders; city officials; Detroit City Council; county and state officials and leaders, lawyers and judges; and mayors of other U.S. and international cities. There is some correspondence to various out of state and overseas officials. Most letters contain Young’s signature, however some were authored by assistants or his press secretary. Subjects range from parking to federal revenue sharing, from birthday greetings to housing and health care. The correspondence includes announcements of appointments to various city jobs and commissions, statements to Detroit City Council, and letters of recommendation.

Series III: Incoming Correspondence Originally labeled “Letterhead,” containing files for correspondence from citizens, city departments, the State of Michigan, and the U.S. government, as well as anonymous and other unsolicited letters, job inquiries and letters about meetings and appointments. Some outgoing correspondence is included. Documents are primarily from 1991 and 1993. Correspondence for 1991 is in the alphabet range of G-L only. Other correspondence was labeled “Mayor’s Invitations” and includes social invitations, meeting notices, brochures and flyers for events. At the end of the series, there are letters and cards received from private citizens, some with responses attached.

Series IV: City Governance This series contains a wide variety of documents concerning the day-to-day governance of Detroit. It includes correspondence and reports to and from various city departments, commissions, and committees, as well as correspondence to and from individual members of the mayor’s staff. Some related materials are also found in Series III. Series IV also includes correspondence to and from Detroit City Council and various departments or commissions of Wayne County, the State of Michigan and the U.S. government. Among the correspondence in this series are faxes and mayoral proclamations from 1992 and 1993. Also included are reports and meeting minutes from a variety of city commissions, departments, and other organizations. There is one box of speeches and three boxes of Mayor Young’s calendars and planners.

Series V: Subject Files This series contains articles, clippings (most from 1973-1974 and from the 1973 mayoral election), memorabilia, and some correspondence arranged by topic. Some documents correspond to reports in Series IV.

Series VI: Scrapbooks Oversized scrapbooks containing newspaper clippings compiled by a press clipping service and covering most years of Young’s tenure as Mayor.

Dates

  • 1964 - 1993
  • Majority of material found in 1993 - 1993

Creator

Language of Materials

Material entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to the Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials. 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.

Extent

56.5 Linear Feet ((92 MB, 3 SB), 42 scrapbooks)

Abstract

With a background in labor activities and civil rights, Coleman Young captured a Michigan State Senate seat in 1964, representing an east side Detroit district, and rose quickly to leadership posts in the Lansing legislature. Michigan Democrats elected him in 1968 to become the first black member ever to serve on the Democratic National Committee. In 1973, pledging to restore peace between the people and police of Detroit, Coleman Young announced as a candidate for Mayor of Detroit. He defeated the City's former police chief, John Nichols, in a bitter election contest in January 1974 and was re-elected in 1977, 1981, 1985 and 1989. He was one of the first African-Americans to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city and served a total of twenty years. He was considered by many of his constituents as a champion of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised. During Young’s mayoral years, the city of Detroit faced numerous economic, political and social challenges.

The papers in Part I of this collection reflect the years of Young's state senatorial service. The materials in Part II of this collection represent a portion of Coleman A. Young’s correspondence and other documents from his tenure as mayor of Detroit, 1973-1993.

History

Part I: Coleman Alexander Young was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama on May 24, 1918.

He moved to Detroit at the age of five when his father, a tailor, sought to escape an economic recession in the south. Coleman Young attended public and parochial elementary schools in the city and graduated with honors from Detroit's Eastern High School. He attended technical school briefly and then went to work on the line at the Ford Motor Company's Rouge Plant.

He joined in the early organizing battles of the United Auto Workers (UAW), took a leadership role in the Wayne County C.I.O., and combined civil rights and labor activities as executive secretary of the National Negro Labor Council.

Commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army during World War II, Coleman Young served briefly in a Ft. Knox stockade after he and scores of other Tuskegee Airmen in the Air Corps shut down an officers' club that refused to serve black officers.

He worked as an insurance executive, a spot cleaner in a laundry, as manager of a chain of dry cleaners, a taxi driver, and a butcher's assistant before plunging into politics full time in 1961 with a successful campaign for delegate to Michigan's Constitutional Convention.

In 1964 he captured a State Senate seat from an east side Detroit district, and rose quickly to leadership posts in the Lansing legislature. Michigan Democrats elected him in 1968 to become the first black member ever to serve on the Democratic National Committee.

In 1973, pledging to restore peace between the people and police of Detroit, Coleman Young announced as a candidate for Mayor. He defeated the City's former police chief, John Nichols, in a bitter election contest.
Part II: Coleman A. Young became mayor of Detroit in January 1974 and was re-elected in 1977, 1981, 1985 and 1989. He was one of the first African-Americans to be elected mayor of a major U.S. city and served a total of twenty years. He was considered by many of his constituents as a champion of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised. During Young’s mayoral years, the city of Detroit faced numerous economic, political and social challenges. The aftermath of the disturbances in 1967 were still evident with population and businesses moving to the suburbs, racial and ethnic tensions, and efforts to integrate the police department and city government. The fluctuations in the auto industry, including the gasoline crises of the 1970s, had major effects on the economy of the city, and Young worked continuously to develop jobs for Detroiters. Deteriorating neighborhoods and housing, crime and drugs, and the deterioration of the public school system were inherited issues that continued as problems throughout this period. Police department re-organization was an important concern of the Young Administration, and there were several controversies during his tenure over police brutality, including the Malice Green case. Neighborhood development, the city budget and city-suburban relations were also important issues during Young’s tenure. One of the most controversial matters was the building of the “Poletown” plant by General Motors (known formally as the Central Industrial Plant Project). Young and his administration worked hard to attract corporate, state and federal funds for a variety of projects within the city. During his term, revitalization projects such as the Renaissance Center, Joe Louis Arena and the People Mover were completed. Some large gatherings and conventions brought national and international attention to the city during this period, especially the 1980 Republican National Convention. The development of casino gambling in the city began during Young’s years, but did not come to fruition until later. Coleman A. Young died in Detroit in 1997.

Arrangement

Part I: Folders arranged alphabetically.
Arranged in six series: Series I (Box 18), Series II (Boxes 19-59), Series III (Boxes 59-80), Series IV (Boxes 81-104, 108-111), Series V (Boxes 105-107), and Series VI (42 scrapbooks).

Series I is arranged alphabetically by subject. Series II is arranged chronologically. Items within each folder are arranged in reverse chronological order. Series III is preserved in original order, generally alphabetically by correspondent or according to the letterhead on the stationery. Strict chronological order was not adhered to. Folders labeled “Mayor’s Invitations” were arranged by month, then by alphabetic grouping, and within each folder roughly chronologically. Series IV is preserved in original order, with some correspondence arranged by subject, some by correspondents (all members of the mayoral staff and city departments) and some by institutions of the city, county, state and federal government. Speeches and day-planners are arranged by date. Series V is arranged alphabetically by subject. Series VI is arranged chronologically.

Acquisition

Part I: The papers of Coleman A. Young were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1971 and 1974 by Mr. Young.
Part II: Part II of the papers of Coleman A. Young were placed in the Walter P. Reuther Library in December 1993 at the conclusion of Young’s final term as mayor of Detroit.

Other Copies

Part II: Correspondence marked “green” in Young’s filing system (Series II in this collection) may be duplicated in the “blue correspondence” at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

Related Materials

Other materials from Mr. Young not held at the Reuther Library are deposited at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. Materials there include correspondence from 1973 through 1993, with the bulk from 1992, and subject files mostly dated 1992, and the mayor’s schedules and a series of speeches dating from the 1970s to 1990s. Meeting and commission reports date mostly from 1992 and 1993. At the Wright Museum, there is also a large collection of audiovisual materials, books and journals, as well as memorabilia and artifacts such as awards, trophies, gifted items and clothing. Also, Coleman A. Young, Michigan State Senate Papers (1969-1972) are at the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.

Transfers

Part I: One photograph of the Black Delegates to the 1961-1962 Michigan Constitutional Convention was placed int eh Archives photograph collection. Three pamphlets have been placed in the Archives Library vertical file.
Part II: Two folders of audiovisual material (photographs, one 45-rpm record) were transferred to the Reuther Library’s Audiovisual Department.

Processing History

Part I: Processed and finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Part II: Finding aid written by Aimee Ergas on April 6, 2010.
Title
Guide to the Coleman Young Papers
Status
completed
Author
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Revision Statements

  • 2010-04-06: Part 2 processed and finding aid updated by Aimee Ergas.

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
5401 Cass Avenue
Detroit MI 48202 USA