When Henry Ford died on April 7, 1947, mourners from all over the world, as many as 100,000 by some estimates, stood in a mile-long line outside Lovett Hall at Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., where he lay in state.
Of those in attendance, blacks represented a large percentage. They paid homage to the industrialist who hired them along with women and the physically disabled when no other company would. Henry Ford paid them the same wages as white men.
The Journal of Negro History wrote of Henry Ford's death that he "had endeavored to help humanity by offering men work at living wages and making it comfortable for them in his employment. In this respect, he was a great benefactor of the Negro race, probably the greatest that ever lived."
Between 1916 and 1918, about 400,000 blacks left the farmlands of the South and headed north to industrial cities such as Detroit, a trend accelerated upon news of Henry Ford's $5-a-day wage. Ford Motor Co. was the leading employer of blacks. The company went from 50 black employees in January 1916 to 2,500 in 1920 to 5,000 in 1923. "No other company came near that figure," wrote August Meier and Eliott Rudwick in Black Detroit and the Rise of the UAW.