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Detroit’s Once-Famous Black Bottom Neighborhood Finally Receives A Historical Marker

Detroit’s Once-Famous Black Bottom Neighborhood Finally Receives A Historical Marker

Hidden history no more!

The residents of Detroit celebrated a historical marker commemorating Detroit’s once-famous Black Bottom neighborhood, Fox 2 Detroit reports.

Detroit was once home to an all Black community called Black Bottom. The neighborhood had at least 350 thriving Black businesses and was home to a number of musical linchpins in the city and dubbed “Detroit’s Black Wall Street” for its thriving entrepreneurship. That was until forced redevelopment wiped out the town. Now, leaders and historians and other residents who once called Black Bottom home are celebrating a historical marker put up to honor the neighborhood.

“Detroit’s historic Black Bottom, running from Gratiot to Larned, from St. Aubin to Brush before it was buried, wiped away by I-75. They paved paradise and put in a parking lot - and a highway,” said Rochelle Riley, director of arts, culture, and entrepreneurship in Detroit, during the ceremony for the new marker. 

During the late 1950s and early ‘60s, former Mayor Albert Cobo forced residents out of the neighborhood, under the guise of redevelopment. For residents with ties, the memory is still very painful.

“To be disrupted by urban renewal was really heartbreaking,” said Beverly Kindle Walker, whose family were residents of Black Bottom.

Current Mayor Mike Duggan spoke on Cobo’s decision, saying, “A couple of years ago I was very proud of the fact that the name of that mayor (Cobo) was taken off the convention center. It’s not a part of our history that should be celebrated.”

Now the city is looking to preserve the memory of Black Bottom, its contributions, and its residents. 

“When you talk about the history of Black Bottom and the rich soil, it’s about the richness of the people,” said Ray Smith, president of the Black Bottom Group and a former resident.

Robin Terry of the Michigan Historical Commission and CEO of the Motown Museum echoed Smith’s sentiments. “If we don’t tell our stories, someone else will tell them and our truths will be lost,” she said. 

The historical marker now commemorates those rich accomplishments and the people who called the Black Bottom neighborhood home.

“On behalf of the Michigan Historical Commission, I am thrilled, I am delighted, to not only recognize but approve this marker for Black Bottom,” said Terry. 

Photo Courtesy of Fox 2 Detroit