Who was Rev. Bradford?
"The Forgotten Man's Hour"
Father Charles Coughlin
The Ford Hunger March
The River Rouge Plant
African Americans and the Success of the CIO
Lewis Bradford
Harry Bennett
The Battle of the Overpass
Layoffs and Intimidation
Muriel Lester
Lewis is Attacked
Lewis Dies
Locating the Autopsy
A City Mourns
Who Knew?
UAW Wins at Ford


The Ford Hunger March

Ford blamed the depression on the poor, and said in March, 1931, "These are really good times, but only if you know it. . . The average man won't really do a day's work unless he is caught and cannot get out of it." (p. 25, The Ford Hunger March, by Maurice Sugar, 1980). Ford refused to pay into an unemployed person's fund.

On March 7, 1932, thousands of unemployed workers marched on the Ford Motor Company. Led by Communist organizers, these were desperate workers, poor, ragged. Evictions were rampant throughout this period, and the previous week, a number of the marchers, including Joe DeBlasio, helped stop police from evicting an African American man from his home. (p. 81, Brother Bill McKie by Phillip Bonosky, 1953).

They marched from Detroit to the River Rouge plant. Their signs read, "We Want Bread Not Crumbs," "Tax the Rich, Feed the Poor," "Free the Scottsboro Boys," and "Stop Jim Crow." At the Dearborn line, the crowd was told to disperse. None of the marchers was armed, but teargas and fire hoses were used on the crowd. Finally, the order to shoot was given - scores were wounded. Killed outright were Joe York, Joe DeBlasio, Coleman Leny, and Joe Bussell.

Clip from "The Ford Hunger March", soloist: Pam Parker.

They were buried in Woodmere Cemetery. An African American man, Curtis Williams, died a short while later, but the cemetery would not allow an African American to be buried along with his comrades. They say his ashes were scattered over the River Rouge plant from an airplane.

I met Dave Elsila, retired editor of the UAW newspaper, Solidarity. Along with Steve Babson and others Dave made a project of getting gravestones for the 5 killed, 50 years afterwards, including a gravestone for Curtis Williams. We visited the graves, the smokestacks of the Rouge towering just behind the markers.

The Ford Hunger March became international news in 1932. Scott Nearing, noted economist and lecturer visited Detroit at this time and gave a talk entitled, "Must We Starve," where he defended the Hunger Marchers. (p. 123, The Ford Hunger March, by Maurice Sugar, 1980). By this time Henry Ford had become the richest man in the world - in the years 1921-22 he had made $200 million in net profit. (p. 80, The Legend of Henry Ford by Keith Sward, 1948). Nearing contrasted the attitudes of Ford, living at the Fairlane estate, and the needs of poor people living in Hoovervilles.

Ford had carefully cultivated an image over the years as the kindly inventor who upheld old-fashioned values.

Clip from "I Invented Autolove", soloist: Mike Wheaton.

But in this period of time, his anti-unionism and anti-communism became so extreme that he became an enthusiastic backer of Hitler. A weekly newspaper put out by Ford, the Dearborn Independent, carried 91 installments of anti-Semitic and racist diatribes, all assembled in one book, The International Jew. It was a bestseller in Germany. Third Reich offices were filled with copies. In the 1920's, the daughter-in-law of the composer Wagner came to Ford asking for funds for the Nazis. (p. 225, Henry Ford, Wayward Capitalist, by Carol Gelderman, 1981). It is unknown the extent of support, but Hitler kept a full-length oil portrait of Henry Ford in his office in Munich.

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