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Detroit figured prominently in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century. King Solomon Baptist Church's auditorium hosted civil rights leader Malcolm X in 1963, where he gave his "Message to the Grassroots" speech. The church complex was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.
Throughout the 20th Century Detroit’s Black citizens worked to establish equality in housing, employment, education, health care, criminal justice, and government. Long a stronghold of civil rights activism, Detroit was the site of the 1963 Walk to Freedom, which was the first major civil rights march in America, where Martin Luther King Jr. first delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Later that same year, Malcolm X’s “Message to the Grassroots” speech given in Detroit signaled the radicalization of the Civil Rights movement and increased interest in Black Nationalism.
The Detroit 20th Century African American Civil Rights Project resulted in a historic context, the identification of 100 civil rights sites, the survey of 30 of those sites, National Register of Historic Places listings for 5 sites, and an interactive Civil Rights sites bike tour. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) provided additional funding for 3 Michigan State Historical Markers.
The historic context addresses the following themes and time periods identified in the National Park Service publication Civil Rights in America: A Framework for Identifying Significant Sites (revised 2008):
The Civil Rights Movement and the African American Experience in 20th Century Detroit Historic Context and Inventory Report documents existing Civil Rights-related sites and background.
The MPDF provides contexts and theme and will enable sites with Detroit Civil Rights significance to be added to the National Register of Historic Places with more ease going forward.
The National Register of Historic Places is the federal government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance. The project listed 5 Civil Rights places in the Register (see full listing next section).
This interactive tour and map allows you to drive or bike to a selection of Civil Rights sites in the city of Detroit and learn more about their significance. The tour is complete and you can easily explore the tour route by smartphone, tablet or computer!
National Register of Historic Places
The coordinated effort to list Detroit Civil Rights sites in the National Register of Historic Places began in 2016 with the creation of the MPDF and five initial nominations. Additional grants and outside community efforts have added several additional sites to the National Register, and additional nominations are also in the works. Explore complete National Register nominations for the following historic properties (Note: some files are large):
* Sites listed as part of the Detroit 20th Century African American Civil Rights Project Grant (2016)
Michigan Historical Markers
The research and installation of three Michigan Historical Markers to interpret Civil Rights-related sites continues in 2022-2023:
For more information on the Detroit 20th Century African American Civil Rights Project, contact:
Amy L. Arnold, Preservation Planner
State Historic Preservation Office
email@example.com or 517-582-1477
For information on the National Register of Historic Places visit https://www.nps.gov/nr
Detroit Civil Rights Sites Bike Tour Video Preview
SHPO has launched an interactive Civil Rights Bike Tour around the city of Detroit to highlight many historically significant places that reflect the civil rights movement in Michigan’s largest city. Encompassing 20 different stops in total, the tour is nearly 17 miles in length but can be easily broken into shorter segments. Learn more in this video preview.