World War II furthered the University of Michigan’s transformation into a global institution, paving the way for a dramatic increase in enrollment thanks to the GI Bill, exponential growth in federal research funding, and an expanded and reconceived campus.
At the same time, Detroit’s need for workers amplified a housing shortage and exacerbated racial tensions, setting the stage for the city’s postwar crisis.
These topics and more are the subject of the fourth LSA bicentennial symposium, “Consequences of Mobilization,” planned for Wednesday at the U-M Museum of Art. The symposium focuses on World War II’s long-reaching implications on campus, the surrounding community (including Willow Run), and beyond.
The first event, a panel titled “Ann Arbor: The GI Bill and Its Impact on Higher Education,” will examine the role that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, commonly known as the GI Bill of Rights, played in expanding access to higher education for a generation of men, along with its effect on U-M.
The discussion will feature Glenn Altschuler of Cornell University, Philo Hutcheson of the University of Alabama, and Robert Bain, U-M associate professor of education and history. It is scheduled for 2 p.m. in UMMA’s Multipurpose Room.
A second event, “Willow Run: Gender, Race, and Factory Work During and After World War II,” will center around a discussion of Ypsilanti’s Willow Run plant, which opened in 1941 to produce the B-24 Liberator heavy bomber and employed a large number of female and African-American workers.
The panel, set for 4:15 p.m. in UMMA’s Auditorium, will discuss the implications for these workers and society, and will begin with a lecture from Ruth Milkman of CUNY Graduate Center, and response from Kate Rosenblatt, a U-M research fellow, adjunct lecturer and graduate student instructor in history. Then, Jennifer Friess will introduce artist Ernestine Ruben, followed by a screening of an original film about Ruben’s iconic photos of Willow Run.
The event concludes with a discussion featuring Ruben, Milkman, Rosenblatt, Deborah Dash Moore, Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor, and professor of history and Judaic studies, and Ruben’s collaborators filmmaker Seth Bernstein and composer Stephen Hartke. A running exhibition of Ruben’s photography will also be on view at UMMA. “Ernestine Ruben at Willow Run: Mobilizing Memory” will be exhibited March 11-Aug. 20.
Finally, a lecture and live performance called “Detroit’s Music in 1943: From Night Clubs to Neighborhoods” will feature music by Vincent York’s Jazzistry accompanied by commentary on the songs in context of the era by Mark Slobin of Wesleyan University. This event will be in UMMA’s Forum at 7:30 p.m.