Governor Whitmer today announced five projects in Michigan helping preserve sites and history related to the African American struggle for equality have been awarded $1,406,709 in federal grant funding through the National Park Service 2020 African American Civil Rights program.
The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) of the Michigan Strategic Fund was one of the grant recipients, with a $50,000 grant to document the history of Black housing in the city of Inkster.
“These federal grants will help us shine a light on the places and experiences vital to the Civil Rights movement in Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer. We will preserve these sites to tell the story of housing discrimination in Michigan and pass on the enduring lessons of the past to build a just future.”
The SHPO grant was one of five projects in Michigan to receive 2020-year funding from the National Park Service’s African American Civil Rights Grant Program. The other four projects were: Russell Woods – Sullivan Neighborhood in Detroit; Second Baptist Church of Detroit; Restoration of the Detroit Urban League; and Restoration and Preservation of Malcolm X House in Inkster.
The SHPO will utilize its grant to document the history of Black housing in Inkster from 1920-1970 and conduct a survey of the following sites to determine eligibility for listing in the National Register of Historic Places:
- The 500 Ford-Inkster Project homes
- The George Washington Carver Homes public housing complex
- The LeMoyne Gardens public housing complex, a 1957 urban renewal project
- The subdivision of mid-century modern homes built east of Inkster Road on Lehigh and Hopkins Streets
Listing in the National Register of Historic Places would qualify these properties for participation in historic preservation incentive programs, including the state’s new historic preservation state tax credit. This project will provide the necessary background information needed to complete National Register nominations.
In the 1920s and 1930s, Inkster was home to African Americans working at the Ford River Rouge Plant. Unable to find housing in Detroit, Dearborn, and other communities with discriminatory housing policies, they settled in a segregated area in southwest Inkster, living in overcrowded conditions. In 1938 Henry Ford authorized the Ford-Inkster Project to improve housing for Ford’s Black workers by building 500 homes, two schools and a medical center.
Ford stopped the aid in 1941 when Black workers supported the unionization of the Willow Run Bomber plant. The UAW then lobbied for the construction of a federal public housing complex in Inkster for Black defense workers, which was built in 1943 during the controversy surrounding Detroit’s Sojourner Truth Homes and the Detroit Race Riot. By 1957 Inkster had an all-Black housing commission. They broke a long-standing color barrier by approving the development of a subdivision east of Inkster Road that was open to all races.
“As one of the few locations in the metro Detroit area where African Americans could live prior to 1940, Inkster and its housing history serve as a microcosm of African Americans’ struggle for equality in housing – the greatest civil rights issue facing metro Detroit in the 20th century,” said Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officer Mark A. Rodman. “This study is crucial to preserving the history of the African American struggle to gain equal rights as citizens. We’re pleased to receive this grant and looking forward to working with our local partners to document the history of Black housing in Inkster.”
The National Park Service (NPS) has operated the African American Civil Rights Grants program since 2016 to identify, document, rehabilitate, and interpret African American Civil Rights sites. It established the Underrepresented Communities grant program in 2014 to diversify sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Nationally, 53 projects were awarded a total of $15 million in 2020-year funding to help preserve sites and history related to the African American struggle for equality.
“This competitive grant program is just one of the many ways the National Park Service is working to preserve and interpret the lesser-known facets of our nation’s shared history,” said NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge. “From physical restoration projects to surveys, documentation, and education, this years’ grant funds will help many of our state, Tribal, local, and nonprofit partners advance their preservation goals.”
For more information on the awards, visit here.
Since 2016, Michigan has received a total of $3.6 million in federal civil rights grants: $3.3 million in rehabilitation grants and $358,000 for identification, documentation and interpretation of Michigan’s civil rights sites. Of those funds, the Michigan SHPO has received a total of $679,500 spread across five separate grant projects.
The SHPO recently completed a grant to document 20th Century African American Civil Rights Sites in Detroit, which resulted in a historic context, five National Register nominations, three Michigan Historical Markers, and a bike tour (https://www.miplace.org/biketour/) as well as a multiple resource property form that will make it easier to nominate other Civil Rights sites to the National Register. Other SHPO Civil Rights grants include $500,000 for the replacement of failing roofs on the Historic King Solomon Baptist Church and $50,000 for the survey of Civil Rights sites in Muskegon County.
To see the full list of federal civil rights grants awarded in Michigan, visit here.
Focused on the historic preservation of culturally or archaeologically significant sites throughout the state, Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Office’s main function is to provide technical assistance to local communities and property owners in their efforts to identify, evaluate, designate, interpret and protect Michigan’s historic above- and below-ground resources. SHPO also administers an incentives program that includes federal tax credits and pass-through grants available to Certified Local Governments.
To learn more about the State Historic Preservation Office and the Civil Rights Movement and the African American Experience in Michigan project, visit https://www.miplace.org/historic-preservation/.