Detroit based projects to document Michigan’s role in the Civil Rights movement

Two Detroit-based projects are working to document the history of Michigan civil rights through a federal grant program.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced in a press release on Monday, September 20, the awards of $ 65,000 from the National Park Service’s state Sub-Represented Community Grant Program.

The city of Detroit received $ 50,000 to study the settlement and development patterns of Latinx communities in Detroit from 1880 to 1980. The Michigan Strategic Fund’s Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) received $ 15,000 to nominate Vaughn’s Detroit bookstore for the National Register of Historic Places.

“These grants will shed light on places and experiences critical to the civil rights movement and help us further expand our understanding of the civil rights movement in Michigan,” said Whitmer. “Vaughn’s Bookstore’s nomination to the National Register will recognize a significant place that has served as a center of black culture and played a significant role in the civil rights movement in the city of Detroit.”

Founded in the early 1960s on Dexter Avenue by Edward Vaughn, Vaughn’s Bookstore was Detroit’s first black-owned bookstore.

As a black-owned company, Vaughn’s Bookstore specialized in African American history and literature that was not available in white bookstores. It became a place where people could meet and learn at a time when the struggle for equality among African Americans was becoming more visible.

“As the first black-owned bookstore in Detroit and a hub for African American journalism and conversation, Vaughn’s bookstore played a key role in the tumultuous civil rights movement of the 1960s,” said Mark A. Rodman, Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officer. “A major priority of the National Register program is to document those sites associated with significant events that have contributed to a broad pattern of our history. We look forward to adding the property to the National Register as the first step towards its reuse. “

The building was damaged after the Detroit Rebellion of 1967 and was later used for other purposes before being abandoned.

The bookstore was originally planned for demolition by the Detroit Land Bank Authority a few years ago, but the building’s civil rights importance saved it from demolition. Documentation from the National Register will help the City of Detroit save the building and include its reuse in their neighborhood planning.

The National Register is the official federal list of areas and structures relevant to American culture. After being included in the list, every federal project must take into account the possible effects on the areas recorded in the National Register as well as the effects on the natural environment.

Once the bookstore is on the list, it will join nearly 2,000 other National Register designated locations in Michigan, including several other websites related to the history of civil rights in Detroit.

The NPS grant builds on previous efforts by the SHPO to document the history of civil rights across the state, including a 2016 grant that spans thirty civil rights venues from the 20 15 of the sites.

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