Discovering the Peoples of Michigan & Dutch in Michigan & Ethnicity in Michigan: Issues and People & African Americans in Michigan & the Albanians in Michigan & the Amish in Michigan & French Canadians in Michigan. (Books)

By Farley, Reynolds | Michigan Academician, Summer 2002 | Go to article overview

Discovering the Peoples of Michigan & Dutch in Michigan & Ethnicity in Michigan: Issues and People & African Americans in Michigan & the Albanians in Michigan & the Amish in Michigan & French Canadians in Michigan. (Books)


Farley, Reynolds, Michigan Academician


Discovering the Peoples of Michigan, a series edited by Arthur W. Helweg and Linwood H. Counsins. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2001-2002. (NOTE: The first two reviews below discuss items in the series published before summer 2002; Dutch in Michigan, by Larry Ten Harmsel, and Poles in Michigin, by Dennis Badaczewski, have since been published. Readers may check the Michigan State University Press Web site, www.msupress.msu.edu, for availability and ordering information.

Ethnicity in Michigan: Issues and People, by Jack Glazier and Arthur Helweg. 2001, 91 pp. African Americans in Michigan, by Lewis Walker, Benjamin C. Wilson, and Linwood H. Cousins, 2001, 63 pp.; The Albanians in Michigan, by Frances Trix, 2001, 73 pp.; The Amish in Michigan, by Gertrude Enders Huntington, 2001, 55 pp.; French Canadians in Michigan, by John P. DuLong, 2001, 56 pp.; Italians in Michigan, by Russell M. Magnaghi, 2001, 55 pp.; Jews in Michigan, by Judith Levin Cantor, 2001, 93 pp.

Since the arrival of French explorers, missionaries, and fur traders in the seventeenth century, Europeans, Caribbeans, Latin Americans, and Asians have migrated to Michigan in substantial numbers. To remind us of the many groups that contributed to the multi-faceted demographic history of this state, Arthur Helweg and Linwood Cousins--with support from the Kellogg Foundation--edited, and then Michigan State University Press published, this series of short paperbacks, each focused upon a specific group. These comments are focused upon the seven books listed above. Within a year, Michigan State University Press will publish additional volumes about Asian Indians, the Dutch, Germans, Hungarians, Poles, and the South Slavs in Michigan.

These books have several assets. First, they are concise. Each of them may be read quickly, indeed, without leaving your desk or chair. Their length makes them suitable for use with those students who are interested in the history of ethnic groups in Michigan. Second, they are highly readable. The editors have done admirable work in keeping them free of obtuse social science jargon. And they contain no complex statistical models that would slow the reading. Regardless of their background or location in the educational system, readers will be able to appreciate the author's major points readily. Third, the editors defined ethnicity broadly. Thus, they included books about the Amish in Michigan, Jews in Michigan, and groups the Census Bureau define as races: Asian Indians and African Americans. Finally, these books are informative and provide their readers with interesting information. From the Ethnicity in Michigan book, we learn that four distinct groups of French migrants arrived in the area that became Mich igan. We learn that the first Amish coming to this state got here in 1895 and settled near Newaygo, apparently because land that had been logged was available at low cost. From the Jews in Michigan_book, we discover that twelve Jewish settlers purchased farmland near Bad Axe in the 1 890s and hoped to create an agricultural society named the "Palestine Colony," but they failed. The Albanian volume tells us that the first of that ethnicity to arrive in Michigan were Orthodox Christians from southeastern Albania who settled in Detroit early in the last century. And the African-American volume lists and describes seven routes of the Underground Railroad that passed through Michigan before Emancipation.

While these books are interesting and readable, they are quite disappointing, at least from the perspective of a reader eager to learn about the history of ethnic groups in Michigan. There is nothing systematic about them nor do they engage any of the overarching issues frequently discussed in ethnic history. The omissions are substantial. …

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