10 Photographs That Show Detroit's March Toward Bankruptcy

PHOTO: The abandoned Fisher Body Plant 21 building stands in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Friday, July 19, 2013.
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Detroit became the largest American city to ever file for bankruptcy on Thursday. That could lead to a host of consequences, from longer wait times for ambulances to diminished pension plans. And while the filing angered creditors, it wasn't entirely unexpected.

Once a vibrant city with good jobs and a thriving middle class, the Motor City's thriving manufacturing industry was hit hard when car factories abandoned the city for cheaper production lines outside the city and abroad. A decline that began in the mid-20th century has been exacerbated in recent years by a flailing economy and stubbornly high unemployment.

There are tangible signs of the decline all over the city. From derelict car factories to neighborhoods that resemble ghost towns, here are 10 photos that show Detroit's march toward bankruptcy.

PHOTO: A line of cars, predominantly Ford cars carrying downtown commuters home from work in Detroit, Michigan, on the first day of the city-wide public transport strike.
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Prosperity: The Teens to the Fifties

Detroit was a booming town in the first part of the 20th century. Car-makers like Chrysler and Dodge had plants in the city, and the manufacturing industry drove a city that people wanted to live and work in. The population grew, and art and culture thrived.

PHOTO: African-American child in Detroit during the race riots in 1967.
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Race Riots: The Sixties

Race riots began in the early 1940s, but they surfaced again in the mid-1960s when police officers raided a drinking club in a predominantly African-American neighborhood. The riots were the culmination of a number of factors, among them political corruption, police abuse, income inequality and a demographic shift. Many soldiers returning from World War II moved to the Detroit suburbs in what some people called "white flight," leaving a poorer, mostly black population in the city.

PHOTO: Unemployed autoworkers queuing at an unemployment office in Detroit, Michigan.
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Unemployment Lines: The Eighties

Jobless autoworkers lined up at an unemployment office in the 1980s. Following the race riots several decades earlier, many businesses relocated to the suburbs, leaving downtown starving for commerce. Violent crime was a critical problem, compounded by the fact that the city faced declining revenue. Some buildings were razed during this time to make way for freeways and roads leading out to the suburbs, but the move wrought havoc on already vulnerable neighborhoods.

PHOTO: Houses along Detroit streets have become derelict abandoned buildings by June 15, 2005.
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Abandoned Houses: 2005

The population has declined by more than half since the 1950s, and it's shrunk by about 25 percent in the last decade or so. Caucasian families fled the city following the Second World War, and affluent black families have followed recently. Areas that were once middle-class are now ghost towns of abandoned buildings that house criminal and drug activity.

PHOTO: Only a few cars are parked in a lot near a closed factory on November 21, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan.
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Closed Factories: 2008

Car and truck sales plummeted during the mid-2000s, and large inventories of cars built up at factories and dealerships. The government passed a multibillion-dollar auto-industry bailout to try to avert economic disaster, but closed factories, like the one in this photo, reminded residents throughout the city how prosperous Motor City had once been.

PHOTO: A neighborhood stands with numerous empty lots on November 21, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan.
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Derelict Neighborhoods: 2008

Although the government bailout progressed and averted some job loss, the city's residents struggled to prosper. Entire neighborhoods were abandoned, giving way to crime and violence that the city failed to contain.

PHOTO: People wait in a several block line to receive gifts of food, personal care and household items and toys at the A Miracle in Motown event, part of a program to help working poor and disadvantaged families December 18, 2008 in Detroit, Michigan.
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Food Lines: 2008

Detroit is the poorest large city in America. A third of the city's residents live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet. Nonprofit organizations and foundations like the National Basketball Players Association and Feed the Children have stepped in to help feed and clothe people, but addressing the roots of the problem -- like unemployment and corruption -- is difficult, and the cycle of poverty continues.

PHOTO: Inside the Fisher Body 21 plant, December 7, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.
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More Lost Jobs: 2010

This eerie photo shows the inside of the Fisher Body 21 plant, the birthplace of the bodies of many Cadillacs. The plant closed in the early 1990s, but the decaying building remains. There were attempts to turn it into a data farm, but those failed to take off.

PHOTO: Shuttered and repossessed homes line the streets of a middle class neighborhood on the East side of Detroit, December 7, 2010 in Detroit, Michigan.
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Crime-Ridden Neighborhoods: 2010

This neighborhood used to be middle-class, but residents have abandoned their homes and moved away, leaving street after street in disrepair. Per-capita income is less than $15,300 and just half of the city's residents over age 16 have jobs.

PHOTO: Trash is seen lying alongside a street February 24, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.
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Trash: 2013

As the population and tax revenues have declined, the city has struggled to provide essential services like trash pickups. Emergency response times have skyrocketed to nearly an hour, and Detroit has the highest crime rate of any major city.

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