Historic King Solomon Baptist Church receives $500,000 preservation grant

The King Solomon Baptist Church, located at 6100 14th Street on Detroit’s west side, played a prominent role in the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.

Malcolm X delivered his famous “Message to the Grassroots” speech at the Northern Negro Grass Roots Leadership Conference there. After splitting from the Nation of Islam, he delivered his “Ballot or the Bullet” speech there April 12, 1964. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Rep. Charles Diggs Jr., and The Honorable Elijah Muhammad all spoke there as well.

To preserve the history of the church, King Solomon Baptist Church was awarded $500,000 via the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office and African American Civil Rights grant from the National Park Service. The funding will be used to rehabilitate the roof of the historic church. The grant is part of an initiative by the National Park Service to fund 44 projects across 17 states that will preserve and highlight stories related to the African American struggle for equality in the 20th century. Congress appropriated $12 million in funding for the project in 2018.

“Through the work and engagement of public and private partners, these grants will preserve a defining part of our nation’s diverse history,” National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith said in a statement. “By working with underrepresented communities to preserve their historic places and stories, we will help tell a more complete narrative of the African American experience in the pursuit of civil rights.”

The church was founded May 16, 1926, on Rivard Street in the predominately Black neighborhood of Black Bottom in Detroit. In search of a larger home, Temple Baptist Church, which was predominately white, was selling the building on 14thStreet in the Northwest-Goldberg neighborhood. In 1951, King Solomon bought the properties on 14thStreet for $325,000, and would move in once the new Temple Baptist church on Grand River was completed, on November 25, 1951. Led by Rev. Dr. Theodore S. Boone, King Solomon soon grew to over 1,000 members and was growing by each Sunday.

King Solomon also became an important center for gospel music, with such acts as the Reverend James Cleveland and Motown music executive Berry Gordy Jr. discovered the Supremes, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard at the church.

In recognition of its Civil Rights significance, the King Solomon Church complex was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.

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