The website of The Gazette van Detroit will cease to exist by December. The paper version already disappeared three years ago. The Gazette has been the voice of the Flemish in North America for the last 104 years.
The Gazette van Detroit was the brainchild of Camille Cools, a Flemish immigrant from West Flanders who moved to Detroit with his family in 1889. They were in search of a better life, like the rest of the 150,000 Belgians who emigrated to North America between 1850 and 1930.
They had fled Belgium out of necessity. Since the mid-nineteenth century the country had been plagued by famine, failure of the potato and cereal crops, epidemics, the collapse of the flax industry and high unemployment. Approximately half of the emigrants were poor farmers from rural West and East Flanders. America and Canada welcomed their arrival, for at the time there was a desperate shortage of labour.
Driven by an unshakeable faith in the social and cultural emancipation of his countrymen, Cools was convinced that the Flemish community in Detroit were entitled to their own publication. The result was the first Gazette van Detroit, which appeared on 13 August 1914.
The newspaper provided information about the activities of various organisations, about new immigrants, and announced upcoming social and sporting events. Most importantly, it contained news from Flanders about World War I in Dutch for Flemish immigrants. The articles in the publication were aimed mostly at craftsmen and farmers with no more than an elementary education, hence they were written in simple Dutch.
Bond with motherland
Cools wanted to give the Flemish immigrants the opportunity, via his Gazette, to maintain their bond with the motherland and with the Flemish language and culture. Furthermore, the paper appeared to be the ideal instrument for strengthening contacts between Flemish immigrants. The primary objective of the Gazette, according to Cools, was "the defence of the ordinary people, the Belgian worker as opposed to the state" The slogan of the paper is therefore: The Light of the People.
For more than a hundred years, it was the only remaining Flemish-American newspaper in the United States. In 2015, the last paper copy of the Gazette was issued. Since then, the news has only been available online. But in December, this will also stop due to a lack of readers. According to correspondent Ludwig Vandenbussche, the descendants of the Flemish immigrants show no interest anymore in their Belgian roots.
Read more about the fascinating history of The Gazette van Detroit in the 12th and 22nd edition of The Low Countries.