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African American Historical Resources and Websites

"Michigan Manual of Freedmen's Progress


The book’s data was collected and compiled by a panel of Michigan African Americans selected by Michigan governor Woodbridge Ferris. Their work was compiled into the “Michigan Manual of Freedman’s Progress” (MMFP), by Francis H. Warren in 1915, offering a cross-section of successful black Michiganders in the early 20th century. 


The impetus for creating the MMFP came from Gov. Ferris. The “National Half-Century Anniversary of Negro Freedom and the Lincoln Jubilee” was scheduled to take place in Chicago in the summer of 1915, celebrating 50 years of freedom for black Americans following the 1865 ratification of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which formally abolished slavery in the United States

Congress passed the amendment on January 31, 1865. Lincoln’s home state of Illinois became the first state to ratify it on February 1, followed by Rhode Island and Michigan on February 2, 1865. Five decades later, the Lincoln Jubilee commemorated the amendment’s passage.

Michigan was represented in Chicago at the Jubilee. Some months before that event, Gov. Ferris asked black staff assistant Charles A. Warren to contact 57 black leaders from around the state and request their aid in organizing a Michigan exhibit for the Jubilee. Though there were only a few months in which to gather information, the eventual manual included meticulously tabulated lists of the over 1,200 black Michiganders who were homeowners and the more than 1,600 black Michigan soldiers who had volunteered to fight in the Civil War. The MMFP acknowledged that given its time constraints, the actual numbers could be higher.

The work also provided biographical sketches of successful black Michiganders.In addition to Henry Wade Robbins, other Ann Arborites include surgeon Simeon Carson, postal carrier Robert Carson, Reverend W. B. Pearson, and physician Catherine Crawford. The work omits William Blackburn, then one of only 10 black policemen in the state.

The 43 black Ann Arbor homeowners listed include porter Levi Bates at 808 4th Avenue. The widow Frances Bubbs worked as a cook for Phi Delta Theta fraternity and owned a home at 1009 Ann St. Teamster William Grayer and his family lived at 1131 Traver. William Henderson, a chef at Kappa Sigma fraternity, resided with his wife Amelia at 701 4th Avenue. Janitor Edward Lewis and his wife Magnolia lived at 1009 Catherine.

Ypsilanti professionals cited in the MMFP include professor Louis Slater Bowles, Reverend I. F. Williams, physician John H. Dickerson, lawyer John H. Fox, and stenographer Carrie Hayes. Among the 68 Ypsilanti homeowners are foreman Abraham Woods at 320 Harriet, house mover Solomom Bow at 420 Washington, Reverend James Derrick at 531 Jefferson Ave., and George Richerson, the “wealthiest farmer in Ypsi,” according to the MMFP.

In 1915, Washtenaw County held the distinction of having Michigan’s second-highest per capita rate of black home ownership relative to total county population, exceeded only by Cass County. One factor in both counties’ significant number of black residents was the historical presence of Quaker residents, many of whom actively participated in the Underground Railroad.

The MMFP also catalogued the 196 exhibits from around the state displayed at the Jubilee. These included such handwork as fine lace, embroidery, quilts, clothing, and painted china. Artwork included a variety of paintings, photographs, and examples of printing and bookbinding. Inventions, blueprints, and patent documents were also on display, as well as a variety of agricultural products. Photographs highlighted homes and businesses built and owned by black Michiganders.

Washtenaw County boasted nine contributors to the exhibition, most of whom were from Ypsilanti. Ypsi confectioner Frank Smith sent a variety of candies. Carrie Hayes and Elizabeth Mofford offered their handmade slippers. Anna Clark and William Henry James loaned their “fancy work.” Fred Warren contributed a handmade cane, and Mrs. Wealthy Sherman a handmade rug. The remaining two contributors came from Whittaker, a hamlet just south of Ypsi: Emanual Carter with poultry and a Mrs. Clark with artworks.

The items went on display at the Jubilee, which also featured speeches, musical performances that included a mammoth choir of hundreds of singers, and other states’ exhibits of black Americans’ inventions, artworks, and achievements in business, manufacturing, and agriculture. The Jubilee was held from August 22 to September 16, 1915. Over 10,000 people attended the its opening ceremonies and an estimated 100,000 persons had visited by the time it closed. Though the Jubilee was open to all, one visitor estimated the ratio of white attendees at only five percent.

Written by Laura Bien

Check out your home town!

Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit and points in between all had listings, step back in time. The Green Book, which was published from 1936 until the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, listed establishments across the U.S. that welcomed blacks during a time when segregation and Jim Crow laws often made travel difficult — and sometimes dangerous.

“Carry The Green Book with you. You may need it,” advises the cover of the 1949 edition. And under that, a quote from Mark Twain, which is heart-breaking in this context: “Travel is fatal to prejudice.” The Green Book became very popular, with 15,000 copies sold per edition in its heydey. It was a necessary part of road trips for many families.

From the New York Public Library Digital Collections

This would prove to be the last class taught at the First Ward school. Teacher is Bernice Kersey. (Ypsilanti Historical Society).

Ypsilanti's Black History online

In the year 1900, Ypsilanti, Michigan’s South Adams Street was a place where the generations that knew of slavery and the struggle for freedom, of Canadian exile and of the Civil War, of the promise of Reconstruction, its defeat and the resulting birth of Jim Crow, were still alive. 

The center of this community developed around the corner of South Adams and Buffalo Streets. This corner was, and is, the site of buildings that housed the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the First Ward School, and the Good Samaritan social hall. South Adams, with its twenty-two households, was just one street in a neighborhood that stretched from South Washington in the east to Hungry Hill on the then southwest edge of the City.

Learn more when you explore this website packed with photos, newspaper articles, stories, maps and more. South Adams Street @ 1900 was created by Matthew Siegfried as a Masters project of Eastern Michigan University's Historic Preservation Program. Readers are encouraged to write with any questions or additions. Walking tours and presentations are available. Email:


At the turn of the century, W. E. B. Du Bois compiled a series of 363 photographs for the "American Negro" exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition. At the time, Du Bois was a professor of sociology at Atlanta University, committed to combating racism with empirical evidence of the economic, social, and cultural conditions of African Americans. The one public statement Du Bois made concerning these photographs was that visitors to the American Negro exhibit would find "several volumes of photographs of typical Negro faces, which hardly square with conventional American ideas." Click on the photo for more

African American History in Kerrytown Ann Arbor

By Deborah Meadows

The African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County (AACHM) was founded in 1993. Our mission is to research, collect, preserve, and exhibit cultural and historical materials about the life and work of African Americans in Washtenaw County. Our programs include videotaped oral histories with the Ann Arbor District Library, Underground Railroad tours, and performances from local artists in our Focus on the Arts events.


The Kerrytown neighborhood was historically home to a melting pot of nationalities, including a small African American community. Their population grew after both World Wars after mass migration of southern Blacks to northern states. Redlining played a part in the formation and maintenance of this community; redlining means to refuse someone a bank loan or insurance because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk. Several African American families in Washtenaw were victims of this unfortunate but intentional practice. A few still reside within the neighborhood, in homes that aren’t yet targets of gentrification. 

In spite of these practices, African Americans had a thriving community in Kerrytown. They raised families, secured employment, and owned businesses in the Black Business district surrounding Fourth Ave and Ann St. Most families could walk to Sunday service at Bethel AME Church at 632 N. Fourth Ave, or to Second Baptist Church at 213 Beakes on the corner of Fifth Ave. Children attended Jones Elementary School in what is now Community High School. The Dunbar Community Center at 420 N. Fourth Ave was operated by and for African Americans to enrich and empower youth and adults through educational and recreational programs.

Across from the old Dunbar Center is the home once inhabited by an African American family at 415 N. Fourth Ave. Today, this building is the Kerrytown Concert House. AACHM recently co-hosted a program with Kerrytown Concert House called “Blue Skies: A Jazzy Afternoon with Athena Johnson,” featuring the lush, soulful voice of this local songstress and her skillfully polished musicians. This virtual performance is available for your personal enjoyment at

The next time you visit the Farmer’s Market, Kerrytown, or the Concert House, take the time to notice the landmarks of our recent past. Try to picture children laughing on the porch of 420 N. Fourth Ave, or imagine hearing the organ and gospel choirs floating out from open church windows at 632 N. Fourth Ave or 213 Beakes. Take time to read the historical panels that dot our city streets created by  The Downtown Ann Arbor Historical Street Exhibit Program. Pause and reflect. Recognize that Black history is American history, and American history is our history.  Click here to read the article online at THE BRICK.

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