Black Historical Sites in Michigan

Krishaun Burns

Detroit is a city with a lot of Black history. Not only is it home to the classic Motown Records, but it also features the historical Second Baptist Church that was integral to the Underground Railroad and the first and oldest Black American Muslim congregation.

Here are seven historical sites that you can’t miss in the Detroit region.

  • 1

    Second Baptist Church

    Second Baptist Church - Monroe Street, Detroit MI

    Second Baptist Church is the oldest Black-owned religious institution in the Midwest. Created in 1836 by 13 people, the church's mission was to "free the enslaved and have them enjoy the full privileges of American citizenship." It was also a station on the Underground Railroad, receiving approximately 5,000 enslaved people as they fled to Canada. Visitors can participate in Second Baptist's Underground Railroad Tour to experience and learn more about the journey. In 1839, Second Baptist established Detroit's first school for Black children.

  • 2

    Black Bottom and Paradise Valley

    Lafayette Park - Detroit, MI USA

    Black Bottom was a predominately Black residential neighborhood in Detroit that was demolished in the late 1950s and early 1960s and was replaced with the present-day Lafayette Park residential district and the I-375 freeway. Within Black Bottom was Paradise Valley, a thriving business district and entertainment center that provided the primary source of income for many residents of the neighborhood.

  • 3

    Hitsville U.S.A.

    Hitsville U.S.A. - West Grand Boulevard, Detroit MI

    Hitsville U.S.A., also known as the Motown Museum, is a destination for music and history fans to celebrate the authentic story of Motown, according to the Motown Museum website. Founded by Esther Gordy Edwards in 1985, the museum is located in the original headquarters and recording studio for Motown Records and is home to an array of company artifacts, photos, costumes, and other memorabilia.

  • 4

    Elmwood Cemetery

    Elmwood Cemetery - Elmwood St, Detroit MI

    Elmwood Cemetery is the oldest continuously operational, non-denominational cemetery in Detroit. Established in 1846 and incorporated in 1849 as a nonprofit, Elmwood was founded by some of Detroit’s early leading citizens and became a popular burial ground for many Black Americans in the city, including abolitionists, businesspeople, political, spiritual leaders, and more. In 2016, the National Parks Service recognized Elmwood Cemetery as a significant site for the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

  • 5

    Masjid Wali Muhammad

    Masjid Wali Muhammad - Linwood Street, Detroit MI

    Masjid Wali Muhammad is home to the first and oldest Black American Muslim congregation. Located initially in Black Bottom, it relocated to its current location on Linwood in 1954. There, W.D. Fard founded the Nation of Islam, which the Honorable Elijah Muhammad led in the 1930s.

  • 6

    Malcolm X House

    4336 Williams St - Inkster, MI USA

    In 2022, Malcolm X’s House in Inkster, Michigan, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Malcolm X was a civil rights leader born in Omaha, Nebraska, who relocated to Michigan during his childhood. He lived at this house in the early 1950s during his conversion to Islam. Now that the National Register recognizes the home, it will be revitalized into a museum highlighting the life of Malcolm X, run by the Inkster-based nonprofit Project We Hope Dream, and Believe.

  • 7

    William Lennane House

    Detroit Association of Women's Clubs - Brush Street, Detroit MI

    In 1913, William Lennane, a contractor, and his family moved into a Neo-Georgian house and resided there until 1941, when they sold it to the Detroit Association of Women’s Clubs, an association for Black women. At that time, Black Americans were prevented from owning property west of Brust Street in Detroit, so they changed the address of the property from 326 E. Ferry to 5461 Brush Street to circumvent the racially restrictive covenants of the time. The DAWC is still there today.

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