detroit joe louis


Joe Louis and Jesse Owens in the 1930′s

Joe Louis (May 13, 1914 – April 12, 1981) and Jesse Owens (September 12, 1913 – March 31, 1980) were both born in Alabama. They were the grandsons of slaves and the sons of sharecroppers. They both stammered as kids before their families migrated north in the 1920’s, where they began their athletic careers; Owens as a runner in Cleveland and Louis as a boxer in Detroit. 

Both Owens and Louis became heroic figures at a time when baseball, basketball and football were still segregated. Owens defied Hitler and Brundage; Louis defeated Schmeling and fought his way to victory in the 1930’s and 40’s.  

After the 1936 Olympics, the US track and field team was scheduled to compete in Sweden. Owens opted to return to the U.S., thinking he would get lucrative endorsement offers. The US Olympic Committee was furious that he returned home to capitalize on his success. They stripped him of his amateur status and banned him from further competitions.

Unlike Owens, who had been banished so young, Louis fought for years. He held the world heavyweight title from 1937 to 1949 and made 25 successful championship defenses.Owens and Louis remained friends for 45 years, and both died at the age of 66.


Story time:
So today my boyfriend and I attended the final game at Joe Louis Arena. About midway through the 1st period, the Wings tweeted out for fans to send them their seat numbers for a “special surprise” so we did as we were told. At 1st intermission we received a DM that said to come to section 115 to claim our prize, so we did. Turns out we won a certificate to randomly select a Red Wings player who we would get to meet ON ICE after the game and receive their GAME WORN jersey straight off of their backs! When we got to ice level, we flipped a card that told us that we were meeting Jimmy fricken Howard. To shorten this story, after the final buzzer, we got to walk on the ice in front of everybody, hold up a sign for Jimmy who then got to skate over to us, take his jersey off his back for us, sign it and take a picture with us. I am currently wearing Jimmy Howard’s GAME WINNING, FINAL GAME AT JLA jersey. It was the most incredible experience and I’ve never felt so blessed. Thank you @DetroitRedWings for an unforgettable night. #JerseysOffOurBacksCeremony

Detroit: Reconstructed, 11/28/17
Irregular gelatin silver contact print

The Renaissance Center, 1977, John Portman-
Though this confusing piece of architecture did bring some economic growth to the city within its first year, the true “renaissance” of Detroit began well after this “City Within a City,” arose.

Monument to Joe Louis, 1986 Robert Graham
Graham referred to the sculpture as a “battering ram.” The Fist was symbolically aimed toward racial injustice because of Joe Louis’ effort to fight Jim Crow laws.

Marco Lorenzetti

Things I Will Miss About the Joe

1. The sight lines.
2. The intimate atmosphere.
3. The memories.
4. The fact that you know you’re in a hockey arena when you walk in.

Things I Will Not Miss About the Joe

1. Tiny concourse.
2. Tiny aisles.
3. Lack of bathrooms, especially pre-upstairs super bathroom.
4. Stairs of death. Outside and inside.
5. Arguably the most poorly designed arena of all time.

I love the Joe, but I’m ready for the fancy new digs.


The Chicago Blackhawks played their final game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit tonight. Opened in 1979, the NHL Red Wings ownership made a bold move locating the arena in downtown Detroit when the city was attempting to revitalize the district amid crumbling urban blight. Around the same time, the NFL Lions and the NBA Pistons fled the city for Pontiac, Michigan, some 30 miles outside of downtown Detroit. My first visit to Detroit was 1980 when I attended a jazz festival in downtown Detroit. From that point, I spent the next  two decades traveling to Detroit for business on a regular basis. The Joe was the first NHL stadium outside of Chicago that I ever visited. I went to many games during those twenty years and still have vivid memories of seeing Steve Yzerman play in his rookie year. Having grown up a Blackhawks fan in Chicago during the “Original Six” era, I always loved the rivalry between the Hawks and the Wings. And having been to some other stadiums around the league, I have to say that Blackhawks and Red Wings fans are the most enthusiastic. Now, with the Blackhawks separated from the rest of the Original Six by conferences, they only play Detroit twice a year, once in each city. So the rivalry is gone and now The Joe will be gone. However, with the new arena opening later this year, the good news for Detroit is that now all the major sports teams - Red Wings, Pistons, Lions and Tigers - are all in the same vicinity, straddling the line between the Downtown and Midtown districts. Along with the Fox Theater, the Casino, and some good bars and restaurants, the city center has finally become the entertainment destination they were hoping to be back during my first visit in 1980.