The histories of Detroit’s African American communities contain stories of survival, resistance, empowerment, and much more that have had profound impacts on the political, social, and economic structures of the city, state, and country. In this website, these histories have been organized into three chapters that span the years of 1701-1974. In each of these chapters, you will find a brief narrative of the topic being covered, accompanied by documents, photographs, videos, and other artifacts from various archival locations. We encourage you to dive in and explore the archived materials, as they provide a wealth of information that we have only begun to touch upon in the narrative.
In the first chapter, “Migrations, Power, and Politics in Detroit” learn about how Detroit’s various ethnic and racial populations came to the city, as well as the impacts and influences each have had on the city’s social, political, and economic structures. Click on the page of each of these groups to read about their experiences in Detroit and to explore our digital collections about their journeys.
In the second chapter, “Black Freedom Struggles in Post-War Era Detroit,” find out how Detroit’s swelling African American population struggled to survive and gain influence in the city from World War II through 1960. Click on the different sections of this chapter to learn about the stages of African American political empowerment during the 1940s-50s and how this impactful era set the stage for the momentous decade of the 1960s.
In the third chapter, “Civil Rights and Black Power in Detroit,” find out about how the fight for equality and human rights in Detroit eventually led to the outbreak of urban rebellion in 1967, as well as the outcomes and impacts of these momentous events that culminated in the election of the city’s first African American mayor in 1974. This chapter is organized into three sections: “Black Resistance Builds,” chronicling the stories of the Civil Rights Movement in Detroit from 1960-1967; “The 1967 Detroit Rebellion,” detailing many aspects of the complex histories of the 1967 Detroit rebellion; and “New Directions in Black Politics,” which follows the stories of Black Power in the city after the rebellion. Click through each of these sections to experience the sights, sounds, and archival records from this exciting period in Detroit’s history.