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Prior to 1940, African Americans working in Detroit, Dearborn, and other nearby communities were severely limited in where they could live. Policies such as redlining and legal limitations such as restrictive housing covenants provided few options to a growing community seeking work in local factories. Inkster, then on the fringe of Detroit’s suburban development, was one of the few places where African Americans could live, particularly in its southwest quarter. Until now, the history and development of this area had not yet been thoroughly studied.
In 1938 Henry Ford authorized the Ford-Inkster Project to improve housing for Ford’s Black workers by funding improvements of over 150 houses. Ford also assisted the community by building a commissary, funding road improvements, and building several schools. Ford stopped the aid in 1941 when Black workers supported the unionization of Ford’s manufacturing plants. During World War II as thousands of job seekers flocked to Detroit and the suburbs for well-paying defense jobs, the George Washington Carver Homes were built for Black employees who were denied housing at nearby white-only defense housing complexes. A temporary housing development, LeMoyne Gardens, was also built in the early 1940s to provide low-income housing for Black residents of Inkster. By 1957 Inkster had an all-Black housing commission and Black residents began moving east of Inkster Road which was a long-standing color barrier. The houses in this subdivision were primarily designed and built by Black architects and real estate developers including architect John W. Bingham, president of Hi-Fashion Homes, and contractor and builder Edward M. Burke.
In 2020, the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office was awarded a National Park Service African American Civil Rights program grant to survey African American housing in Inkster from 1920-1970.
This is a reconnaissance level historic survey of four housing developments in Inkster, including the Dancy-Ford development, the George Washington Carver Defense Homes, the LeMoyne Gardens housing project, and a 1950s housing development known in its early years as Watsonia Park Subdivision No. 2. In total, the survey encompasses 552 properties in four distinct, contiguous and noncontiguous areas roughly confined to the southwest quadrant of the city of Inkster.
The primary purpose of this survey is to research and document historic African American housing in Inkster to gain a better understanding of the historic areas of significance, preservation threats and opportunities, and to provide recommendations to the State Historic Preservation Office, City of Inkster officials, community members, and other interested stakeholders. This survey also seeks to identify historic resources in Inkster that are potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, either individually or as a district. The data from the survey, the survey forms, and the recommendations contained in this report will be a planning and preservation resource for the City of Inkster, the State Historic Preservation Office, and interested community groups.
For more information on the African American Housing in Inkster Project, contact:
Katie Kolotithas, Survey Program Coordinator
State Historic Preservation Office
email@example.com or 517-285-9248