DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – The Detroit Public Library plans to catalog hundreds of boxes of memos, official letters and other documents that crossed the desk of former Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young, which could provide new insight into the long tenure of the city’s first black mayor.
“Coleman Young is one of the most significant African-American mayors in the second half of the 20th Century,” library special collections coordinator Mark Bowden told the Detroit Free Press. “He was mayor during a lot of upheaval. This will help give insight to his administration and how he handled a lot of these challenges.”
Young was elected in 1973 – six years after a riot devastated many city neighborhoods and created a deeper racial divide between whites and blacks in Detroit. During his many terms as mayor, the fiery, salty-tongued Democrat clashed often with suburban leaders and reporters.
He decided not to seek re-election in 1993 and died in 1997 after a long illness.
His papers have been in possession of the library for years. Many of the documents were vetted by Young before they were donated, Bowden said.
While collections from previous mayors his immediate successor, Dennis Archer, already have been catalogued, there was little money available to take on the 1,175 boxes containing Young’s papers.
An $87,400 Council on Library and Information Resources grant will pay for the project and part-time archivists to do the work. They are expected to start this month and have it wrapped up in about two years. The archivists plan to report interesting findings on online blogs.
“It’s a tremendous amount of material. We couldn’t do it with current staffing levels,” Bowden told The Detroit News.
Once processed, the documents will remain at the library.
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