Settled in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the city was named Ville d’Etroit (City of the Strait) for its location on the twenty-seven-mile-long Detroit River, which connects Lake Erie with Lake St. Clair and is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway. Detroit has grown under the flags of three nations – France, Britain, and the United States. An international port and border city, Detroit is directly across the Detroit River from the city of Windsor, Ontario, the only point in Canada lying directly south of a city in the United States.
With the rapid growth of industry, especially the automobile industry, Detroit first turned to European settlers for assembly line workers, then during World War II to workers from America’s South and beyond. As a result, people from many ethnic groups and cultures found employment in the area and have continued to enrich the community with their food, art, music, language, and religious traditions. Now, Detroit is the largest municipality in Michigan and demographics make it a “majority minority” city, with African Americans making up more than 80% of the population and Latinos comprising nearly 10%. The neighboring city of Dearborn, Michigan has the highest concentration of residents from Middle Eastern nations in the United States and is a center of Arab-American culture. Detroit's population is made up of roughly 677,000 residents. The population of the greater metropolitan area reaches over 4.3 million, the fourteenth largest in the nation and an area of ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and cultural diversity.
Metro Detroit is home to the headquarters of the “Big Three” automakers, Ford in Dearborn, Fiat-Chrysler in Auburn Hills, and General Motors (GM) at the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. The auto plants of the “Motor City” area produce 25 percent of U.S. cars and trucks. Healthcare is one of largest industries in the region with other STEM-related fields growing at increasing rates. Non-automotive manufacturing employs more than 1.2 million people. With the use of robotics in auto-manufacturing, increased international competition among international automakers, many living-wage assembly line jobs were lost in the area. Due to this and many other issues, Detroit experienced a severe recession in the 2000’s. Between 2000 and 2010, the city’s population declined by 25 percent for 950,000 to 713,000. Abandoned homes and industrial sites have caused considerable blight in many parts of Detroit. There continues to be outmigration from the city, although the rate of decline has slowed significantly.
Urban development projects have begun to rejuvenate the downtown area and to attract more businesses and visitors. However, many neighborhoods remain distressed. The Governor of Michigan declared a financial emergency in March 2013, appointing an emergency manager for Detroit. In July 2013, Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in U.S. history. After the public and private partnership known as the “Grand Bargain” was implemented, the city emerged from bankruptcy on December 10, 2014 and leaders and residents anticipate Detroit’s recovery.
Points of interest include the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Renaissance Center (GM headquarters), Detroit Institute of Arts, Motown Museum, Comerica Park (baseball), Ford Field (football), Eastern Market, Heidelberg Project (community arts project with vacant homes), the Detroit Riverfront and Belle Isle, Arab American National Museum, Wayne State University, and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.