Flint is an industrial city located an hour northwest of Detroit in Michigan. Originally the home of numerous General Motors factories, including the Buick World Headquarters, Flint has fallen on hard times over the past 30 years due to the decline of the American automotive industry. Despite these misfortunes, the city has an outsized history, including decisive roles in the growth of the American labor movement and community schooling and evident in a host of extensive and well-endowed cultural institutions. Flint's crime numbers have risen dramatically in recent years and funding for redevelopment projects has topped $400 million.
Sometimes considered a suburb of Detroit, Flint is more accurately described as a "satellite" city. Like Saginaw, Pontiac, and other factory towns in Michigan, Flint's identity is often influenced and predicted by the Motor City and the peaks and valleys of the American auto industry. Because the American auto industry has been in bad shape these last few decades, these cities, and debatably Flint most of all, have become symbols of urban blight and economic ruin. Hence it is tempting to write them off at the worst as ghost-towns, or at the best as smaller clones of Detroit. However, in fact each city is regionally distinct, both in terms of the local institutions they have raised in times of prosperity and crisis, and in the emphasis of civic response. In Flint's case, for example, the imprint of Charles Stewart Mott, General Motor's most famous philanthropist, often overshadows that of Billy Durant, who actually founded the corporation. Streets, parks, estates, neighborhoods, colleges, and lakes have been named after Mott and his family, and the Mott Foundation funds and supports many cultural events here. But this reverence toward a more glorious past is just as often tempered by frustration with its side-effects and outcome. The bulk of Sloan Museum (see below), for example, is a measured analysis of the opportunities and hazards of rapid industrialization. Much recent literature to come out of Flint, such as Rhonda Sanders Bronze Pillars focuses on the vitality of the African-American community, and its struggle against housing compacts and discrimination in the factories. It is true that many other communities have struggled with these very issues in recent decades, but the height from which Flint has fallen -- from Michigan's "second city" and acknowledged birthplace of the world's largest corporation to an international symbol of crime and poverty -- has left deep scars on Flintites (or Flintstones; another heady debate in these parts).