Thursday, November 13, 2014

Mayor Coleman A Young-1st African-American Mayor of Detroit

Coleman Alexander Young served as mayor of Detroit, Michigan from 1974 to 1994. Young became the 1st African-American Mayor of Detroit in the same week that Maynard Jackson became the 1st African-American mayor of Atlanta. Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Coleman Young arrived in Detroit with his family when he was five.  The Colemans settled in the working class neighborhood of Black Bottom (East Detroit), where his father operated a dry cleaning business and his mother was a schoolteacher.  Early in his life Coleman suffered various forms of racial discrimination from denial of scholarships to a racially motivated firing at an automobile plant.
During the 2nd World War, Coleman was one of the Tuskegee Airmen, serving as a bombardier-navigator, but he was discharged after demanding service at an all-white officers club in Indiana.  After the war he returned to Detroit, where he worked as a union organizer, and campaigned for Progressive Party presidential candidate Henry Wallace in 1948.  His activism with the leftist Progressive Party drew the hostility of mainstream labor leaders like UAW president Walter Reuther. Young lost his union position and later gave defiant testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee.  Blacklisted by the labor establishment, he went through intense personal difficulties, and was married and divorced twice. In 1981, he received the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP

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