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Local Museums Spotlight Black History

By: Aaron B. Cohen | February 11, 2022

Detroit is a city that shaped the modern world. From the auto industry to music, Detroit’s influence can be felt globally.

Its identity is shaped by those who have called the city home. It’s true – a city is defined by its people, and here, we know that a great deal of the things we love and cherish are rooted in the BIPOC community.

This month, we’re celebrating the remarkable contributions of black Detroiters throughout the years, and taking time to learn more about the stories that collectively encapsulate Detroit’s past, present, and future.

One way to dig deeper is to explore the city’s elite educational institutions. Reading a book or watching a documentary can certainly shed light on a topic, but nothing compares to the experiences obtained firsthand. For a day of learning and inspiration, try visiting one of Detroit’s world-renowned museums.

Detroit Historical Museum

Whether you’re new to town or have lived here your entire life, it is impossible to not learn something new at the Detroit Historical Museum. An institution of the Detroit Historical Society, the exhibits take you through the journey of the Motor City, from its original inhabitants to the present. Amongst other signature exhibitions, Doorway to Freedom- Detroit and the Underground Railroad highlights the city’s unique contribution to the freeing of enslaved people. The exhibit showcases the horrors of slavery and the perils of the journey north, while also paying homage to the courageous individuals who risked their lives in an effort to help others.

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

For more than 50 years, The Wright Museum has served as a beacon of knowledge and pride for the city of Detroit. Home to the Blanche Coggin Underground Railroad Collection, the Harriet Tubman Museum Collection, and the Sheffield Collection—a repository of documents regarding the labor movement in Detroit, The Wright houses more than 35,000 artifacts pertaining to the African American experience. It is the hope of the museum that this knowledge will build “a world in which the adversity and achievement of African American history inspire everyone toward greater understanding, acceptance, and unity.”

Detroit Institute of Art

Universally considered one of the nation’s most comprehensive art institutes, the DIA is a prized gem of the city. Along with Diego Rivera’s legendary frescos and an awe-inspiring collection of works dating to the earliest civilizations, the DIA is proud to house the General Motors Center for African American Art – one of the first curatorial departments devoted exclusively to African American art at a major museum. Since 2000, the department has worked to increase awareness of the contribution of African Americans to the arts community. The collection holds over 600 works from the mid-19th century exploring identity, politics, social consciousness, and more. 

Motown Museum 

Since opening its doors in 1959, Hitsville has functioned as the epicenter of Detroit’s musical identity. The legendary studio and home of founder and music mogul, Berry Gordy, now serves as a symbol of Detroit’s global impact.

Founded in 1985, tens of thousands visit the Motown Museum each year to experience the space where their favorite music was born. Studio A looks just as it did decades ago when the hits were seemingly never-ending. Now, you can feel the history for yourself.

The museum is currently under renovation but will reopen to the public this summer.