Image First African American tenants moving into the Sojourner Truth housing project, 1942

TLF ID M009011

This is a black-and-white photograph showing an African American family attempting to move into the Sojourner Truth housing project in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The photograph was taken in February 1942 by Arthur Siegel. Part of its caption reads 'Riot at the Sojourner Truth homes, a new U.S. federal housing project, caused by white neighbors' attempt to prevent Negro tenants from moving in'.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This photograph shows the event that served as a catalyst for the first major incident of racial violence in the USA during World War II. The image and its caption are valuable sources for year 10 history studies of the background to the US civil rights movement, and also for year 11 and 12 modern history studies of the same topic as well as studies of the USA during World War II.
  • The events surrounding this scene provide clear evidence of the deep-seated racism underpinning housing segregation in the USA at the time. As wartime production increased dramatically in Detroit and large numbers of African Americans moved to the city to work in the factories, the federal government realised that a new segregated black neighbourhood would be needed to house the workers. As the first families tried to move in on 28 February 1942, rioting began.
  • Families such as the one shown here were harassed by large crowds of white Americans. In spite of the presence of 200 police, they were pelted with rocks and 40 people were injured. By the end of the day, the entry of black families had been stopped. It did not resume until 29 April 1942, when 1,100 city and state police and 1,600 Michigan National Guardsmen were on hand to protect the first six families.
  • Arthur Siegel was a Detroit photographer who worked for the Farm Security Administration and its successor, the Office of War Information. He was on the scene in 1942 and took 24 photographs as events unfolded.
Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Arthur Siegel
  • Description: author
  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Person: Arthur Siegel
  • Description: author
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.