A look at some of Detroit’s historic Black landmarks

Landmarks include Dunbar Hospital built in the early 1900s

Touring Detroit's historic Black landmarks
Touring Detroit's historic Black landmarks

DETROIT – Before COVID-19, historian Jamon Jordan was a prominent tour guide in Detroit. But he’s now pivoted to virtual tours and took Local 4 on a socially distanced walk past some important landmarks

Jordan said a group of Black doctors and nurses opened Dunbar Hospital because at the time, major hospitals wouldn’t see Black patients.

“For a few years this was the Black hospital in the city of Detroit,” Jordan said. “This hospital was started in 1918, which of course was the year of the pandemic.”

A century later, as a new pandemic ravages the world, it underscores ongoing health disparities and how vital Dunbar Hospital was for Black Detroiters, including Dr. Ossian Sweet, who was an unsuspecting pioneer of civil rights.

Jordan said Sweet worked at Dunbar Hospital.

READ: More Black History Month coverage

In 1925, Sweet bought a home in a white neighborhood, and a mob tried to force the family out. While defending their home, two white people were shot and one died.

The NAACP hired the family a prominent lawyer.

“So now we’re dealing with the criminal justice system, attacking and punishing African Americans for asserting their humanity,” Jordan said. “He argued that they had the right to defend their homes, and in 1925, they’re going to win that case.

And one of the most recognizable faces of the civil rights movement is Rosa Parks.

“She’s going to live here in the city of Detroit longer than she lived in Montgomery, Alabama, and for a long time, she lived at 3201 Virginia Park,” Jordan said.

But many do not know that Parks continued her fight for civil rights in Detroit. And a century earlier before Michigan was even a state, leaders of the Underground Railroad founded Second Baptist Church.

“The people who are fighting to establish their own religious places are also the people helping to free Black people from slavery. If these stories get lost or hidden, then we lose a part of ourselves,” Jordan said. “History helps us to see where we’ve been and be able to place us in a better space that we can move forward.”


Black History Month


About the Author:

Priya joined WDIV-Local 4 in 2013 as a reporter and fill-in anchor. Education: B.A. in Communications/Post Grad in Advanced Journalism