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 River Rouge Plant

In April 1936, Bradford went to work on the assembly line at the Ford River Rouge plant, with a spirit of hope, and anticipation that his visions could come true at the Rouge, the biggest battleground in the 1930's for the hearts and minds of American workers.

The Rouge was a marvel of the Industrial Age when built in the 1920's. It was the largest factory in the world. One hundred thousand workers worked its assembly line. The raw materials were brought into the plant, and thirty-three hours later, a fully assembled car rolled off the line. Diego Rivera's mural in the Detroit Institute of the Arts depicted the Rouge, and its "imaginative power, its physical complexity and its sheer brutality," according to Nelson Lichtenstein. (p. 17, Walter Reuther: The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit, by Nelson Lichtenstein, 1995). It was Edsel Ford, Henry Ford's son, who saw that Diego Rivera, a world-famous artist who also happened to be a Communist, got his commission. Edsel defended the decision, and in sharp contrast to the Rockefellers, who had the Rivera mural in the Rockefeller Center destroyed, the Rouge mural stands to this day.

Clip from "Keep the Wheels Rolling On", soloist: Mitch McMurren.

The Rouge and the Ford Motor Company were inspirations for many of the world's greatest artistic ruminations on the relationship of humanity to the machine: Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, and novels like Upton Sinclair's Flivver King which depicted the brutal reign of Ford and Bennett at the Rouge.

As Bradford began working at the Rouge, Bennett was assembling a collection of security guards using ties to the underworld, as well as a special relationship with Harry H. Jackson of the Michigan prison system. (p. 298, The Legend of Henry Ford by Keith Sward, 1948). Release felons early, and Bennett would give them a gun and a nightstick, and a job at the Rouge performing "security."

Clip from "I Know the Fear", soloist: Scott Sedar.

At the same time, a team of labor organizers were working to bring the workers into the newly formed United Auto Workers union. Carl Haessler, editor of the West End Conveyor, the UAW newspaper for Local 174 during this time, was a Rhodes scholar. Many of the organizers were idealistic and bright men and women. The contrast between the union and Ford's thugs could not have been starker.

Clip from "When You Organize", soloist: Jason Landis.

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