Explore these Black History markers in Detroit's Midtown

By Larry Spruill - Reporter

DETROIT - February is dedicated to celebrating the history of African Americans, and a lot of that history happened here in Detroit. 

It’s no secret that Detroit is known as the "Motor City" or the "Motown Sound," filled with a lot of musical legends, but you never heard about Downtown or Midtown of the history behind that. A lot of people don’t know that history involves African Americans. Some call it "Black Detroit."

“I loved history class. I always loved it. That was one thing people don’t like, but I did. I took a liking to it,” said Branden Hunter. 

When it comes to Detroit history, Hunter knows it all.

“I always wanted to read. I wanted to know the why. Why was this here? Why did this happen? Who was this person?” said Hunter. 

That inquisitive mindset landed him in journalism. He’s a writer for the Michigan Chronicle. It’s Detroit’s only newspaper targeted toward black people or what he calls "Black Detroit."

“I would describe Black Detroit as being resilient. We came up here, under crazy circumstances, looking for jobs, looking for better housing and we thought it would be better coming from the South, but it really wasn’t,” said Hunter. 

That history is displayed throughout the Motor City. Everywhere you turn has a bit of black history. 

The Lewis College of Business is located on Ferry Street. It’s in the heart of Midtown. 

“We talk about it, and a lot of people don’t know this was the first, the only recognized HBCU in Michigan,” said Hunter. 

HBCU stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The schools were founded for African American students. 

Violet. T. Lewis founded the school in 1928 in Indiana and moved the school to Detroit in 1939. She taught many students writing and business management, but Lewis and her school weren’t welcome at the time. 

“All of these homes were predominately white, they didn’t want the school over here. In 1942, they sued the school to have it removed,” said Hunter. 

The school closed in 2013. 

Just down the street is the Detroit Association of Women’s Club, located on Brush Street. “It’s a social club,” said Hunter. 

The Social Club was solely for African American women and had roughly 3,000 members in 1945.

“They bought the home in 1941, and it was on Ferry Street but as I told you, it was in affluent white neighborhood and they didn’t want black people living on this street,” ‘said Hunter. 

The club applied for an address change, even moved the door of the home from Ferry Street to Brush Street.

“One of her defining moments was her standing up to the housing discrimination and racism in Detroit during that time by having this door moved to the other side and not moving the whole building itself,” said Hunter. 

The final stop on the tour was at Dunbar Hospital Detroit on Frederick Street. It’s the first hospital where black people could work and get treatment.

“It was a home and then transformed into a hospital in 1918, had 27 beds, 30 doctors were here,” said Hunter. 

It’s named after Paul Laurence Dunbar, who wrote the poem "Vote for Pingree and Vote for Bread." That poem was dedicated to Detroit’s mayor at the time, Hazen Pingree. 

“It’s a nice-size house for a residential house, and you’re talking about it being a hospital. It was large enough to be that with 27 beds," Hunter said. "A lot of history, over here in Midtown. There’s a lot we don’t know about, it’s scattered around, but it’s there, you just have to find it. It’s there."

Complete Coverage: ClickOnDetroit.com/BlackHistoryMonth

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