The Ann Arbor Library creates a self-guided walking tour of the historically black neighborhood

ANN ARBOR, MI – From the black-owned shops that lined Ann Street to the Dunbar Community Center and Colored Welfare League on Fourth Avenue, what is now downtown Kerrytown was once a major hub of black community life by Ann Arbor.

In collaboration with the African American Cultural and Historical Museum of Washtenaw County, the Ann Arbor District Library is now offering the public the opportunity to travel back in time with a tour of the Historically Black Quarter.

As part of the Living Oral History Project, which asks black residents about their memories of life in the Ann Arbor area, the library created a map that focuses on eight locations, with historical information on each and links to other resources, including old photos and oral traditions.

“It contains the stories and memories of those who lived here,” said City Councilor Linh Song, former chairman of the AADL, and encouraged people who enjoy exploring downtown and historic neighborhoods to check it out.

The public can download a PDF map and information leaflet to take the self-guided tour and learn about how the area was in the early and mid-19th centuries. The elementary school, which was an anchor of the historically black district, reopened as a community high school.

The new walking map was completed in September and the library plans to offer it digitally and print hard copies for people who want to pick up a package, AADL spokesman Rich Retyi said.

In addition to the Black Business District and other attractions mentioned above, other stops on the tour include Seeley House and Second Baptist Church on Beakes Street and the old Bethel AME Church on Fourth Avenue.

There’s also a fuller map of the two historic Black Quarter now known as Kerrytown and Water Hill, where black populations have declined significantly as a result of gentrification.

Ann Arbor’s neighborhoods were largely racially segregated until the 1960s, according to the hiking brochure.

“North Fourth and Fifth Avenues, Beakes Street, Depot Street, and Fuller Street were almost all black residents, and several families lived on Kingsley Street,” it says. “The neighborhood also ran up the hill and included Felch, Hiscock, West Summit, Pearl, Sunset, Daniel, Spring, Fountain, Hillcrest, Miner, Gott, and Brooks streets. This area had about 80% black inhabitants. “

The Living Oral History Project’s phase eight release is due on Nov. 14, including interviews with 10 new participants, Retyi said, adding that the library is now finishing the videos while an illustrator takes portraits of the participants.


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