Detroit has the world’s only floating post office and created the nation’s first stretch of paved road. Come join our experts for an insider’s look at this fascinating city.
Rating (5)
Program No. 21851RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Explore Detroit's important role in American history and experience the city’s comeback for yourself. Learn about Henry Ford, who invented the assembly line but also was one of America's most important benefactors of innovation and preservation of American history. Delve into the story of the Great Migration of African Americans who flocked to the city to work in the automotive industry. Discover how the wealth of the city transformed it into a center for the arts, at the Detroit Institute of Arts, one of America's most important art museums and trace the origins of the Motown Sound and the musicians who made it. Experience firsthand how businesses large and small have taken on the entrepreneurial role of rebuilding Detroit and the dynamic energy of the city, the revitalized river-front, newly renovated historic buildings and the spirit of Detroit moving forward.
Activity Level
On Your Feet
Walking and standing in museums and on field trips for up to 2 hours, over 2 miles, per day.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Explore the Detroit Institute of Arts, including Diego Rivera's Detroit Industry fresco cycle and other highlights.
  • Learn about Henry Ford and his legacy at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford Estate, The Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village and the Ford Rouge Factory.
  • Examine the Great Migration, Detroit’s African American history and the Music of Motown, the sound that changed American music.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Samuel Donald
A native of Detroit, Samuel Donald has a love for music and his community. After teaching in Detroit area schools for more than a decade, he founded Youth City, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing students with professionally organized programs in music and career development. Currently, he is co-producing the six-part documentary, “Detroit Music,” which intends to educate local youth about notable musicians who grew up in the same neighborhoods. Samuel previously worked as the road manager for Detroit artists David and Delores Winans.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Samuel Donald
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Robert (Robin) Boyle
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Jamon Jordan
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Karin Risko
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Micki Sigmon
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on, a website that supports local bookstores.
Detroit: A Biography
by Scott Martelle
etroit: A Biography takes a long, unflinching look at the evolution of one of America’s great cities, and one of the nation’s greatest urban failures. It tells how the city grew to become the heart of American industry and how its utter collapse—from 1.8 million residents in 1950 to 714,000 only six decades later—resulted from a confluence of public policies, private industry decisions, and deep, thick seams of racism. And it raises the question: when we look at modern-day Detroit, are we looking at the ghost of America’s industrial past or its future?
Recollections The Detroit Years: The Motown Sound By The People Who Made It
by Mr Jack Ryan
The Motown story involved many people including writers, singers, musicians, disc jockeys and professionals who built the foundations of "The Sound Of Young America". Coming from Detroit and spreading to the entire world, Motown and its unique sound won the hearts and the love of millions from its start in 1959 until today. Relive the magic, the music, the love and the fabulous dancing in "Recollections The Motown Sound By The People Who Made It."
Detroit: The Dream Is Now: The Design, Art, and Resurgence of an American City
by Michel Arnaud
Detroit: The Dream Is Now is a visual essay on the rebuilding and resurgence of the city of Detroit by photographer Michel Arnaud, co-author of Design Brooklyn. In recent years, much of the focus on Detroit has been on the negative stories and images of shuttered, empty buildings—the emblems of Detroit’s financial and physical decline. In contrast, Arnaud aims his lens at the emergent creative enterprises and new developments taking hold in the still-vibrant city. The book explores Detroit’s rich industrial and artistic past while giving voice to the dynamic communities that will make up its future. The first section provides a visual tour of the city’s architecture and neighborhoods, while the remaining chapters focus on the developing design, art, and food scenes through interviews and portraits of the city’s entrepreneurs, artists, and makers. Detroit is the story of an American city in flux, documented in Arnaud’s thought-provoking photographs.
Hidden History of Detroit
by Amy Elliott Bragg
Discover the Motor City before the motor: a muddy port town full of grogshops, horse races, haphazard cemeteries and enterprising bootstrappers from all over the world. Meet the argumentative French fugitive who founded the city, the tobacco magnate who haunts his shuttered factory, the gambler prankster millionaire who built a monument to himself, the governor who brought his scholarly library with him on canoe expeditions and the historians who helped create the story of Detroit as we know it: one of the oldest, rowdiest and most enigmatic cities in the Midwest.
Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story
by David Maraniss
It’s 1963 and Detroit is on top of the world. The city’s leaders are among the most visionary in America: Grandson of the first Ford; Henry Ford II; influential labor leader Walter Reuther; Motown’s founder Berry Gordy; the Reverend C.L. Franklin and his daughter, the amazing Aretha; Governor George Romney, Mormon and Civil Rights advocate; super car salesman Lee Iacocca; Mayor Jerome Cavanagh, a Kennedy acolyte; Police Commissioner George Edwards; Martin Luther King. It was the American auto makers’ best year; the revolution in music and politics was underway. Reuther’s UAW had helped lift the middle class. The time was full of promise. The auto industry was selling more cars than ever before and inventing the Mustang. Motown was capturing the world with its amazing artists. The progressive labor movement was rooted in Detroit with the UAW. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech there two months before he made it famous in the Washington march. Once in a Great City shows that the shadows of collapse were evident even then. Before the devastating riot. Before the decades of civic corruption and neglect, and white flight. Before people trotted out the grab bag of rust belt infirmities—from harsh weather to high labor costs—and competition from abroad to explain Detroit’s collapse, one could see the signs of a city’s ruin. Detroit at its peak was threatened by its own design. It was being abandoned by the new world. Yet so much of what Detroit gave America lasts.
River Rouge: Ford's Industrial Colossus
by Joseph P. Cabadas
In 1914, Henry Ford ordered the construction of a small plant at the confluence of the River Rouge and Detroit River in what was then the rural community of Dearborn, just outside of Detroit. Eventually, that small pilot plant grew into the gigantic 1,100-acre River Rouge Complex, the most famous auto factory of the twentieth century, renowned as the home of Ford's "vertical integration." In 1999, Ford's great-grandson and Ford Chairman Bill Ford III announced that the company would reinvent the complex as the auto factory of the new century, scheduled for completion in 2004. Like "the Rouge" itself, this illustrated 90-year chronological history of the complex will provide a sprawling view of the evolution of automaking and industrial technologies, as well as the exciting new concepts the company is incorporating into the current redesign.
Driving Detroit: The Quest for Respect in the Motor City
by George Galster
For most of the twentieth century, Detroit was a symbol of American industrial might, a place of entrepreneurial and technical ingenuity where the latest consumer inventions were made available to everyone through the genius of mass production. Today, Detroit is better known for its dwindling population, moribund automobile industry, and alarmingly high murder rate. In Driving Detroit, author George Galster, a fifth-generation Detroiter and internationally known urbanist, sets out to understand how the city has come to represent both the best and worst of what cities can be, all within the span of a half century. Galster invites the reader to travel with him along the streets and into the soul of this place to grasp fully what drives the Motor City. With a scholar's rigor and a local's perspective, Galster uncovers why metropolitan Detroit's cultural, commercial, and built landscape has been so radically transformed. He shows how geography, local government structure, and social forces created a housing development system that produced sprawl at the fringe and abandonment at the core. Galster argues that this system, in tandem with the region's automotive economic base, has chronically frustrated the population's quest for basic physical, social, and psychological resources. These frustrations, in turn, generated numerous adaptations—distrust, scapegoating, identity politics, segregation, unionization, and jurisdictional fragmentation—that collectively leave Detroit in an uncompetitive and unsustainable position. Partly a self-portrait, in which Detroiters paint their own stories through songs, poems, and oral histories, Driving Detroit offers an intimate, insightful, and perhaps controversial explanation for the stunning contrasts—poverty and plenty, decay and splendor, despair and resilience—that characterize the once mighty city.
Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum
by Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village
Book by Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village

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