Remembering Black History in Ann Arbor

. February 6, 2017.
Ann Arbor has been on the progressive side of history for well over a century
Ann Arbor has been on the progressive side of history for well over a century

The spirit of activism is alive within the Washtenaw County community. Seen most recently in the Black Lives Matter and anti-Trump social rights movements, protests surrounding the fair treatment of minority groups not only within The Ann Arbor area but also nationally and internationally, are on the rise as individuals are driven to find their voice – and to speak it.

But this isn’t the first time Washtenaw County has seen a rising of empowerment among members of the community. In fact, it has become a time-honored tradition for many as it sprawls the generations.

Black history, specifically, in Ann Arbor can be traced back nearly as far as the history of the city itself. Beginning around 1827, only a few years after the city’s official founding, when Jacob Aray, an immigrant from Holland, arrived in Ann Arbor with his wife and children, purchased 160 acres of farmland. The Arays were one of the first free black families in Ann Arbor, and Jacob’s son, Asher, grew to be a conductor on the Michigan underground railroad, heroically helping fugitive slaves from the South to cross the border to Canada.

Eighty years later, in 1947, “Operation Haircut” saw Ann Arborites, particularly University of Michigan students, picketing local barber shops that refused to serve black customers. These pickets expanded by the 1960s to include other local businesses as the civil rights movement in The South gained national prominence.

At this time Ann Arbor experienced its most note-able, historic movement. Members of the Black Action Movement (BAM) staged non-violent demonstrations in the late ’60s to protest the too-slow integration of a still overwhelmingly white university. When University employees and students went on strike in 1970 to support BAM’s aims, a settlement was reached that would pledge millions of dollars to the goal of reaching 10 percent black enrollment.

Wishing to both preserve these memories and perhaps inspire a new generation is the nonprofit, African American Cultural & Historical Museum of Washtenaw County. Dedicated members of the museum are currently accepting donations of historical artifacts, holding events and continuing to raise money to open a museum that honors Ann Arbor’s rich history of black activism, perseverance and bravery.

Trending

Whip Jams Features Local Artists Discussing What Drives Their Creativity

Whip Jams provides a space for local artists to talk about what music means to them and to preform live! Check out some of the newest Whip Jams videos and artists.

How the Music Industry is Surviving the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit every industry, including music. How is music handling such a trying time? Here are some ways the industry has adapted to COVID!

Lily Milo Explores a Spectrum of Emotions through her Powerful Voice

Lily Milo writes what you may call ‘softer’ music, but she can really let loose with her voice. We don’t usually acquaint words like exhilarating with folk music, but to behold the six songs on the Ann Arbor based singer/songwriter’s new EP can sometimes manifest moments of a candle’s delicate flicker going to a bonfire

Workit Health Expands Digital Addiction Care

Michigan’s award-winning addiction care program, Workit Health, announced to expand their virtual services to help fight addiction in four additional states.