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Muskegon, like many industrial cities, was desparate for factory workers during World War II and in the economic boom that followed. Business owners sent recruiters to southern states to entice new laborers, primarily African American men, to accept new jobs in Muskegon. The Black population in Muskegon increased dramatically during the 1940s, but the city was unprepared for the influx of new residents, causing a significant housing shortage. As the number of Black residents in Muskegon increased, de facto and systemic discrimination increased as well. Housing discrimination persisted and was reinforced and perpetuated by discriminatory realty practices, including redlining. Segregated neighborhoods resulted in segregated schools, and the city schools had predominantly Black student enrollment while rural county schools were almost entirely White student enrollment. Muskegon's African American community simultaneously thrived and struggled.
The goal of the Muskegon County Civil Rights Survey Project is to document the Black experience in and around Muskegon, especially during the mid-20th Century Civil Rights Movement. Approximately fifty sites will be surveyed during the project, including historically Black churches and schools, sites listed in The Negro Traveler's Green Book, homes and businesses of prominent local Civil Rights leaders, and businesses, parks, or other places where Civil Rights demonstrations took place. As a significant number of Civil Rights-related resources have been demolished in Muskegon over the last fifty years, information about these properties will also be compiled. A narrative report will contain in-depth research on each property surveyed, as well as broad research about the formation of Black communities, racial discrimination in Muskegon, and the Civil Rights Movement. Informal oral history interviews with local Civil Rights leaders and long-time residents will offer first-hand accounts of these events.
The Muskegon County Civil Rights Sites Survey project is funded by a federal grant from the African American Civil Rights Grand program, National Park Service. The information gathered during field survey, research, and interviews will be used to develop educational materials for K-12 students that will be included in loan kits held by Muskegon's Lakeshore Museum Center.
For more information on the Muskegon County Civil Rights Survey Project, contact:
Katie Kolotithas, Survey Program Coordinator
State Historic Preservation Office
firstname.lastname@example.org or 517-285-9248