2 minute read

The World in Darkness

Detroit And Change

In 1953, Lulu moved with her three boys to Detroit, Michigan. She got back together with Paul Hardaway (Milton and Calvin's father). The reunited family lived in Detroit's east side black ghetto. Paul began work in a bagel factory. Lulu cleaned the houses of wealthy people. The family made a living in Detroit, and life became better for them. They were still poor, but the family was stable and happy. Eventually, Lulu and Paul would have three more children. Two boys followed Stevie, and the siblings' only sister came later.

Lulu feared for Stevie's safety when they first moved to Detroit. Getting used to change is difficult for anyone who is blind. For a three-year-old boy, this changed his entire world. Detroit was larger, more crowded, and busier with street traffic. Stevie had to get used to a new house and neighborhood. He had to learn where furniture was placed and where the different rooms were in the house. Lulu's fear of Stevie getting hurt forced her to keep him inside the house most of the time. Stevie had only his brothers to play with. Stevie's only world was his family and the sounds, smells, and objects inside their home.

Stevie used what was around him to learn all that he could. Sound was most important, followed by touch and smell. Stevie used his memory to learn where furniture was. He also used his memory of sound to learn more about the world around him. Stevie recalled, “I remember people dropping money on the table and saying, ‘What's that, Steve?’ … I could almost always get it right, except a penny and a nickel confused me.”

Lulu watched Stevie's progress closely. Even so, Stevie continued walking into furniture and getting into trouble when he soiled his clothes while playing in the yard. Stevie began walking with his arms straight out to guard against walking into things. His mother told him to stop doing that. She thought he looked foolish. She also knew inside that people would laugh at Stevie if they saw him walking this way. Lulu didn't want Stevie to feel humiliated for being blind. She told him that he must not move around too much. This is when Stevie began to jump up and down a lot He listened to his feet hit the floor. He listened to the echo his stamping feet made against the walls. Stevie began to learn about echoes and distance.

To encourage Stevie not to move around so much, Lulu bought him a cardboard drum to play with. Stevie had already been hitting things to hear what sound they made. Now he had a drum to bang on. Stevie hit the drum for hours. “I'd beat ‘em to death,” Stevie remembered.

Additional topics

Musician BiographiesStevie WonderThe World in Darkness - Miracle Baby, His Own Way Of Seeing, Detroit And Change, Using Sound To See The World