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By the 2010s, Detroit had gone from a bastion of middle-class Black homeownership to a foreclosure, eviction, and speculation hotspot, where a new class of land barons reigned. While Detroit’s abandonment is often explained as the historical outcome of postwar deindustrialization and suburbanization, this chapter uncovers how one of the world’s largest tax-foreclosure auctions functioned as a technology of wealth transfer. It traces its origins to a well-organized US property and states’ rights movement that aimed to privatize public land, discipline the poor, and preserve ruling elite entitlements. The auction wreaked havoc on the city. It deepened racial disparities, fueled speculation, and worked to unmake the longstanding American dream of homeownership. It also led to huge agglomerations of de facto public land, raising critical questions about how the land should be disposed of and managed, and by what processes.

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