Apr 27, 2023 - Education

WSU class will analyze Detroit Mayor Coleman Young

Mayor Coleman Young on the phone while mayor of Detroit.

Mayor Coleman Young, pictured in 1981. Photo: Courtesy of Detroit News Collection, Walter P. Reuther Library, Wayne State University

Wayne State is offering a course this spring and summer on the legacy of former Mayor Coleman Young.

What's happening: Taught by associate professor Jeff Horner, the class features guest lecturers with tales to tell about the city's first Black mayor.

Details: The lecture series is 6pm on Thursdays from May 11-July 27.

  • Lectures will be open to the public, not just current WSU students. Those interested in fully taking the class can call WSU's educational outreach department at 313-577-4682 for details.

What he's saying: "The broad view of the class is the work that Mayor Young did to try to expand the city in a time the city was quickly declining," Horner tells Axios. "What I would like students to come away with are all the attempts, the successes and failures, of Mayor Young trying to reengineer the city through an (urban) planning lens and/or a social lens."

Zoom in: Horner says he's excited to hear the lecture from Emmett Moten, a former Young adviser and development director and "a very well-known name" at the time, Horner says.

  • Also on the docket is WSU associate professor David Goldberg, who will talk about Young's complicated history with the labor movement, and local historian Ken Coleman.
  • There's also Bryan Jones, a former WSU professor who wrote "The Sustaining Hand," a book detailing the behind-the-scenes politics involved in creating the GM Poletown plant that required razing a neighborhood during Young's tenure.
  • Other topics include Young's attempts to improve regionalism, the inception of the People Mover and the clergy's political influence.

Flashback: The course is the third in a series that emerged as Horner and other faculty brainstormed how to lure students in for the summer.

  • The first, in 2014, delved into Detroit's bankruptcy and became a hit. "Detroit Metropolis in Transition" featured the city's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, in "the only time in my teaching career that I've had police officers stationed outside my classroom to maintain order," Horner says.
  • The second in the series came in 2017, looking at the 1967 rebellion, 50 years on.

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