EMU College of Arts & Sciences Theme 2021-22

Detroit Was the EMU College of Arts & Sciences Theme for 2021-22

In 2021-22, the College's departments, schools, and programs presented a rich series of presentations, performances, exhibits, discussions, workshops, excursions, and movie showings that explored and illuminated Detroit.

Detroit Is Why We Are Here

EMU was founded in 1849 as the Michigan State Normal School to train teachers for Michigan's schools. Although our graduates were to serve all of Michigan, the legislature placed our campus in the southeast corner of the state to be near Detroit, the state's center of population. When we became a university in 1959, we took the name Eastern Michigan University to mark our Southeast Michigan home and identity. EMU makes serving the people and communities of the Detroit region a central focus of its mission.

Detroit Is Fascinating

Detroit is named for the strait--in French détroit--that links Lake Erie to Lake St. Clair and the upper Great Lakes. For centuries Native Americans gathered at this strategic location, and in 1701 French colonists built a fur trading outpost here. Over the next two centuries, this settlement grew into a world-class city dominated by ship building and stove manufacture. In the twentieth century, Detroit became America’s Motor City, a center of automobile production and the birthplace of the moving assembly line, industrial unionization, the American middle class, and the music of Motown. In the mid-twentieth century, automobile manufacturers moved most production out of the city, leading to decades of population loss and economic decline. During these years, most White Detroiters followed the exodus of manufacturing jobs to the suburbs, but discrimination in housing and employment prevented most African Americans from leaving the financially distressed city. In recent years Detroit has experienced an economic resurgence, and community leaders are seeking to leverage this new growth to benefit all of the city's residents and neighborhoods.

photo of Kevin Boyle

Keynoting Our Detroit Theme Year Was McAndless Professor Kevin Boyle

The 2021-22 McAndless Professor was Dr. Kevin Boyle, the William Smith Mason Professor of American History at Northwestern University. Boyle is a Detroit native and a historian of Detroit. His publications include The UAW and the Heyday of American Liberalism, 1945-1968; Muddy Boots and Ragged Aprons: Images of Working-Class Detroit, 1900-1930 (with Victoria Getis); Organized Labor and American Politics, 1894-1994; and Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age, which received the National Book Award for nonfiction, The Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Tolerance Book Award. It was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and was selected for community-wide reading programs in the Detroit metropolitan area and the state of Michigan.

Boyle recently received the prestigious National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholars Fellowship to complete work on two forthcoming books: The Splendid Dead: An American Ordeal and The Shattering: America in the 1960s, which explore immigration and race in the twentieth century and seek to make academic scholarship accessible to a broad range of readers.

During each of his three visits to EMU, Dr. Boyle delivered a public lecture on Thursday evening and led workshops with EMU students on Friday. The topics and dates of his talks were:

  • "Ossian Sweet's Life and Legacy," Thursday, October 14, 2021

5:00 p.m.: Book Signing & Reception, Student Center Ballroom Lounge

6:00 p.m., Book Talk, Student Center Ballroom

Watch this presentation.

Boyle tells the story of Ossian Sweet, a Black doctor in 1920s-Detroit who moved into a White neighborhood with his wife and infant child. They were attacked by a mob, and in the violence that followed, one of the attackers was shot and killed. In one of the most famous trials of the 1920s, Sweet was acquitted of murder on grounds of self-defense. Boyle examines the legacies of racial violence in the urban north, making crucial links to twenty-first century politics. Boyle's talk will draw on his book Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights and Murder in the Jazz Age, winner of the National Book Award.

  • Student Workshop: "Researching & Writing Detroit History," Friday, October 15, 2021

11:00 a.m.-12:15 p.m., Student Center, Room 300

Boyle led a conversation about resources and methods for researching the history of Detroit.

  • "History as Narrative: The 1960s," Thursday, November 4, 2021

5:00 p.m., Student Center Auditorium

Watch this presentation.

Drawing on his new book The Shattering: America in the 1960s (2021), Boyle traces this tumultuous decade through the stories of the men and women who lived through it. The 1960s were marked by fierce conflicts over issues of race, war, and sex. By focusing on the leaders and foot soldiers of these iconic social movements that threatened to tear the nation apart, Boyle’s talk will illuminate new insights into current political divisions.

  • Student Workshop: "The Craft of Narrative in Academic Writing," Friday, November 5, 2021

11:00 a.m.- 12:15 p.m., Strong 211

Boyle discussed the craft of narrative in historical writing.

  • "Civil Rights History on Film," Thursday, January 27, 2022

5:00 p.m., Student Center Auditorium and on Zoom

Boyle assesses the ways that Hollywood and smaller studios have captured iconic episodes in the Black freedom movement. Some of these films have been historically accurate, while others have promoted false narratives. In this talk, Boyle discusses three recent films that examine racial violence, interracial marriage, and the Black Power movement: 4 Little Girls (1997), Loving (2016), and Judas and the Black Messiah (2021).

  • Student Workshop: "Translating History Into Cinema," Friday, January 28, 2022

11:00 a.m.- 12:15 p.m., Pray Harrold 219 and on Zoom

Boyle discussed the challenges of translating history onto the big screen.

Join the Conversation on Our Blog

The CAS Detroit Blog hosts reports and reflections of events, spaces, and places in Detroit authored by Eastern Michigan University students, instructors, staff, and alumni.

Research and Read

Want to learn more about Detroit? The EMU Library has created a Detroit Research Guide, which includes detailed lists of books about Detroit available at the EMU Library, broken into broad categories, including education, history, music and the arts, race and community, and more. Print books mentioned on the lists are available for checkout.

Cover of Detroit Resurrected by Nathan Bomey
EMU College of Arts and Sciences logo
Detroit Theme Year logo
Cover photo by Michael Tighe via Wikimedia Commons.