What You Can Expect from ‘Detroit: Comeback City’

On Sunday, July 1 History premiers Detroit: Comeback City, co-produced by Big Sean and narrated by J.K. Simmons. The 45-minute documentary is a chronicle of Detroit's varied surges, stumbles and aggressive faceplants, with Michigan Central Station serving as a place keeper, its history a direct reflection of the city's. Once "a vital part of the transportation infrastructure," says co-producer Terry Wrong, the station closed in 1988 and for 30 years has sat abandoned and forgotten, an emblematic statement on the greatness that once was Detroit. Earlier this month, Ford Motor Company announced its purchase of the building, the latest – and hugest to date – marker of a city on the rise.

Highlights from the film:

• Michigan Central Station was designed and built by the same architects who built Grand Central Terminal in New York City, and opened to the public in 1913.

• Henry Ford's Model T led to Detroit's first economic boom and its nickname – "Motor City." By 1918, half of all cars on the road were Model Ts.

• The stock market crash of '29 delivered the first major blow to Detroit, post-Industrial Revolution. Auto production dropped 75 percent, and Detroit had the most unemployed people than any other city in the U.S.


• World War II created a new boom in job growth and new opportunities for black workers, contributing to The Great Migration. By 1940, 150,000 blacks were in Detroit, the most in any northern city.

• By 1958, one out of every six workers were employed by the auto industry.

• Berry Gordy created Motown in 1959, turning no-name black artists into superstars, providing opportunity that they wouldn't have gotten elsewhere.

• In 1967, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler moved their operation plants to the suburbs – where most whites had migrated – taking with them the high-skilled jobs.

• Blacks that remained in the city were disenfranchised, stuck in low-skilled jobs and regularly the targets of harassment from an all-white police department.

• The 1967 rebellion left 43 dead, 1,189 injured and more than 2,000 buildings destroyed. Within six months, the majority of Detroit's remaining white residents relocated to the suburbs.

• Only 18 trains were departing from Michigan Central daily by 1967. In its heyday, that number was upwards of 200.

• The 1973 oil crisis turned people away from gas-guzzling Detroit cars to more fuel-efficient foreign cars.

• Amtrak halted service to Detroit in 1988, closing the train station.

• Crack and heroine hit Detroit hard in the late '80s, leading to more crime.

• In 2009, GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. In that same year, plans to demolish Michigan Central are halted by grassroots activists and preservationists.

• Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013, and revitalization efforts began. Most notably, Dan Gilbert moved Quicken Loans downtown.

Watch Detroit: Comeback City on History on Sunday, July 1 at 9 p.m.

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