Henry Leland had left Cadillac after the GM purchase. He was encouraged by friends and investors to found a new car company. Using his prestige, Leland sought to design a new American luxury car, a car that would rival the Rolls Royce; a car he named after his favorite President, Abraham Lincoln. Sadly, for all his innovation on the factory floor and mechanical know-how, the new cars were seen as behind the times in their styling. The company only lasted five years under Leland's leadership. Henry Ford then purchased Lincoln, some said Ford did it just to spite Leland. He then gave the company to his son Edsel, like a toy from a cereal box.
They created an industry in Detroit second to none and it reached out and touched all aspects of America. Detroit needed steel from Pittsburgh and Chicago and coal from Kentucky and West Virginia and rubber from South America to make tires in Ohio. Moving all of these goods meant more trains for the railroads. The lure of better-paying industrial jobs lured farm boys from across the country to the busy streets of Detroit. The loss of farm labor was made up for by using more machinery, the tractor, the pump and the generator, which in turn also created more industrial jobs, which attracted even more farm labor.
Roads were paved, highways were built, liberating people who, a generation before, had never gone more than twenty-five miles from their homes. Women especially were freed from lives trapped in farmhouses. The first Olds with an automatic transmission was advertised as a "ladies car." Just as suddenly, millions who had lived too far from town to further their education's were now able to do so. A renaissance occurred in American life, from an agrarian to an industrial society, all in the space of a generation because of a small group of tinkerers, machinists and businessmen from Detroit.
From that time forward Detroit became the symbol of the great melting pot and the American dream. African Americans from the South, immigrants from across the world made Detroit home. The UAW was born in Detroit, free-working people fighting for the right to organize. They fought all the powers of heaven and Earth, the government, and the police. They put their lives on the line and in some cases forfeited them for the dream of a middle class life.
During the 1960's, racial injustice combined with police brutality in the form of the "Tac Squad" and the "Big Four" police units, boiled over into a riot in Detroit the likes of which hadn't been seen on American streets since the Civil War. Forty-three people dead, almost twelve hundred injured and seven thousand arrests. It was not a noble cause, but it was necessary as the poor and the oppressed rebelled against their perceived oppressors.
We, the people of the United States and the world, owe a debt of gratitude to the ghosts of Detroit. For if America has a heart, Detroit is where we check our pulse. Detroit was a city built on automobiles that built a nation built on automobiles. Autos built by blue collar, working-class folks who believed in the American dream as the dream of prosperity through hard work.
I could go on and on with page after page of all that has been done wrong, but I'll stop here with all that Detroit has done right. For all that she has given to the world, she's a city that deserves better from a country that has forgotten its heroes and its roots, and sees them only as ghosts of the dead. It is policies that have put us where we are. The brains the hands and the spirit which changed the world are still there and waiting to be tapped again.