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Detroit’s Black History

To mark Black History Month, The Michigan Citizen reached into its photo archives to repost a variety of events that tell some of Detroit’s recent history. We encourage readers who can add to the narrative of any of the photos to please do so by submitting comments to



St. Rep. Ed Vaughn unsuccessfully challenged Dennis Archer for Mayor in 1997. Vaughn, owner of a bookstore on Livernois, galvanized the majority of grassroots activists across the city but did not prevail. Shown here at an African Liberation Day celebration at the Inner City Sub Center in May, Vaughn played a prominent role in the state House as Detroit Democrats fought to prevent Gov. John Engler, aided by Archer, from taking over the Detroit Public Schools.

Robert Blackwell is sworn in as Wayne County Commissioner by daughter Judge June Blackwell-Hatcher as son Art Blackwell looks on. “Bob” Blackwell as the first Black mayor of the city of Highland Park was also the first Black Republican mayor in the nation. He served as mayor 16 years. He passed in 2008. Art Blackwell served as chair of the Wayne County Commission from 1987 to 1994.

FLICS (Foreign Language Immersion Culture Studies (FLICS) students Lexis Staples, Gregory Whetstone, Aisha Anderson, Omare Todd and Jack Mitchell visit the zoo with teacer Ms. Alexis Scott. The school was founded in the 1980s, located in the former Breitmeyer school. It relocated to the former Renaissance High School in 2005. It is one of the few foreign language immersion schools in the state.

Under the leadership of Reparations Ray Jenkins, seated left, the Detroit chapter NCOBRA was one of the most successful in the nation. At an April 1999 meeting, attendees heard that the local chapter had raised twice the funds that the other chapters across the country had raised. (l-r) Ifra Schkook, Helen Moore, Malik Shabazz and JoAnn Watson.

Whatever point in history of Detroit, Belle Isle has served as a focal point for community activity. Host to hundred of family reunions each summer, the Isle serves as a place of relaxation for a variety of activities. Here a woman feeds the ducks.

Author and economist, Dr. Claude Anderson (l) brought his message of Black Economic Empowerment many times to Detroit in the 1990s. Attempting to establish a commercial fish farm on the eastside with investment from the community, he found no support from the Archer administration. One strong supporter of Anderson’s push for self-determination was Reparations Ray Jenkins, a realtor and leading member of N’COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America).;

This cartoon of Mayor Dennis Archer ran weekly on page one of the Michigan Citizen during Archer’s second term with an editorial observation about Archer’s policy of the week. Citizens rose up against the Graimark project scandal involving the forced removal of longstanding homeowners from the lower east side; the takeover, which Archer assisted, of the first state takeover of the schools; his refusal to grant ownership of one of the three casinos to an African American; his designation of the east riverfront as a casino district that destroyed many fledgling businesses there.;

Hundreds of protestors gathered nightly at the Gratiot Avenue Sunoco station to protest the beating death there of Kalvin Porter In May 1999. Two Yemini immigrants made inappropriate remarks to Porter’s 12-year old stepdaughter and when Porter went into the station to admonish the men, they attached him. The station was shut down. Benny Napoleon was chief at the time and the two men were arrested and charged with second degree murder.



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