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Remembering Coleman Young 40 years later

Coleman Young’s first mayoral election, Nov.1973 COURTESY PHOTO

Coleman Young’s first mayoral election, Nov.1973

On January 1, Mike Duggan was sworn in as the white mayor of the predominately Black Detroit in four decades. Forty years ago, in January 1974, Coleman Alexander Young, made history when he was sworn in as Detroit’s first Black mayor. Young is praised by many for giving African Americans opportunities where none existed under white political control. He’s often criticized for contributing to an already racially-segregated metropolitan area. He served Detroit from 1974-1994. He passed in November 1997.

Coleman Young’s inaugural speech — only 500 words — is below in its entirety

Thank you very much Justice (John) Swainson, Judge (Damon) Keith. If the unity of that duet forebodes anything, I think it is proof that we can bring this city together, that we will bring this city together and commence the awesome task of rebuilding a new and greater Detroit.

I want to thank Council President (Carl) Levin and Mayor (Roman) Gribbs for the kind words, for the pledges of support that they have offered my new administration. I will need all of their help and more. I am gratified we have a new Common Council, which I feel shares — as deeply as I personally feel — the necessity for moving forward.

The first problem that we must face as citizens of this great city, the first fact that we must look squarely in the eye, is that this city has too long been polarized. (applause)  We can no longer afford the luxury of hatred and racial division. What is good for the Black people of this city is good for the white people of this city. What is good for the rich people in this city is good for the poor people in this city. What is good for those who live in the suburbs is good for those of us who live in the central city.

It is clear that we have a commonality of interests. The suburbs cannot live without the city.  The white population of this city cannot live while its Black people suffer discrimination and poverty.  And so I dedicate myself with the help of Common Council, and more basically with your help toward beginning now to attack the economic deterioration of our city, to move forward the significant first steps that have been made, such as the Renaissance Center, to deal with the problem of rebuilding our city economically. I recognize the economic problem as a basic one. But there is also a problem of crime, which is not unrelated to poverty and unemployment. And so I say we must attack both of these problems vigorously and at the same time.

The Police Department alone cannot rid the city of crime. The police must have the respect and cooperation of our citizens. But they must earn that respect by extending to our citizens cooperation and respect. We must build a new people-oriented police department. And then you and they can help us to drive the criminals from our streets. (applause) I issue open warnings now to all dope pushers, to all rip-off artists, to all muggers. (applause) It’s time to leave Detroit.  Hit Eight Mile Road. (extended applause)  And I don’t give a damn if they’re Black or white, if they wear Superfly suits or blue uniforms with silver badges. Hit the road. (applause)

With your help we shall move forward to a new and greater Detroit. We must first believe in ourselves. We must first do for ourselves. Yes, we will demand our share of revenue from Washington and from Lansing, but the job begins here and now with us, forward together.


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