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Celebrate Black History Month 2024 In Ann Arbor

February marks the start of Black History Month, and Ann Arbor has many ways to celebrate. This national month-long celebration honors the achievements of African Americans with enriching events such as panel discussions, movie screenings, and workshops. The African American Cultural History Museum of Washtenaw County, The University of Michigan, and the Ann Arbor District Library are hosting various impactful events you won’t want to miss.

Photo of the The African American Cultural History Museum of Washtenaw County building on 1528 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI 48105.

The African American Cultural History Museum of Washtenaw County. 1528 Pontiac Trail, Ann Arbor, MI. This building was moved from Downtown Ann Arbor instead of being demolished to make way for a high-rise student housing building. It is beautifully restored and well worth a visit.

The African American Cultural History Museum of Washtenaw County (AACHM) is the only museum dedicated to the preservation of black history in Washtenaw County. Founded in 1993, it started as a museum without walls, evolving into a physical space on Pontiac Trail. Located in Ann Arbor’s Northside, the museum serves as a dedicated space to preserve and share the rich history of the local African American experience. Surrounded by over eight Underground Railroad sites, it is a vital educational and historical center in Ann Arbor.

AACHM Events:

WEMU’s Black History Moments:

Throughout February, WEMU, in collaboration with the AACHM, presents daily Black History Moments, celebrating significant contributions by the African American community in Washtenaw County.

“Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community” Artist Talk:

Date: February 11, 2024
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm
Location: Riverside Arts Center, 76 N Huron St, Ypsilanti
Join artists from the showcase as they delve into their creative process, motivations, and plans, exploring the profound role of art in their lives.

Local History Spotlight:

Date: February 17, 2024
Time: 2 pm to 4 pm

Location: Riverside Arts Center, 76 N Huron St, Ypsilanti
Embark on a journey through African-American history in Ypsilanti, with narratives shared by the Palm Leaf Club and residents.

Exhibit Closing Night:

Date: February 23, 2024
Time: 6 pm to 8 pm
Location: Riverside Arts Center, 76 N Huron St, Ypsilanti
A celebratory evening featuring delectable cuisine, enchanting music, and community camaraderie. Conclude the month-long event with a jazz performance by Sean Dobbins.

“Family Foundations: Four Stories of Black Washtenaw Community Building 1850-1950” Exhibit:

Location: 1528 Pontiac Trail
Open on Saturdays and Sundays from 12 Noon to 4 pm. Groups are welcome; call 734-761-1717 for inquiries.

Interior of the African American Cultural History Museum of Washtenaw County.

Interior of the African American Cultural History Museum of Washtenaw County.

The Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) Events:

‘Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am When’ Film Screening:

Date: February 10
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: multi-purpose room, AADL Downtown Branch, 343 South Fifth Ave.
The film explores race, history, America, and the human condition.

The African American History of Detroit:

Date: February 15
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: 3333 Traverwood Drive (in-person and live-streamed online)
History professor Peter Boykin delves into Detroit’s African American history, covering slavery and the Underground Railroad.

‘A Ballerina’s Tale’ Film Screening:

Date: February 26
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Multi-purpose room, AADL Downtown Branch, 343 South Fifth Ave.
AADL concludes Black History Month with a screening of “A Ballerina’s Tale,” featuring Misty Copeland’s career, recovery from a serious injury, and the lack of diversity in the world of dance.

The University of Michigan Events:

Empowering Generations: Past, Present, and Future, hosted by Yvette Rock of Live Coal:

Date: Feb 5-26
Location: Michigan Union, 530 S. State St.
Explore a compelling exhibit hosted by Yvette Rock in collaboration with Live Coal, a Detroit nonprofit organization. 

The Black Business Expo:

Date: Feb 15
Time: 4 – 7 p.m.
Location: Kuenzel Room, Michigan Union
Explore the innovative endeavors of Black entrepreneurs in Ann Arbor at The Black Business Expo. Engage with and support the local Black business community during this event.

Other Events:

Black History Month Celebration Concert:

Date: February 16
Time: 6:30 – 8 p.m.
Location: The First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, 608 E. William St.
Benjamin Gaughran will lead the Chancel Choir of the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor in a collaboration concert with the Chancel Choir of the First United Methodist Church Ann Arbor and their conductor. The concert will feature music by African American composers, including Nathaniel Dett and Adolphus Hailstork.

From showcases at the African American Cultural History Museum to engaging programs at the Ann Arbor District Library, there are many opportunities to celebrate Black History Month. Attend, listen, and learn at these special events. Your participation fuels a stronger, more connected community, honoring the role of Black history in Washtenaw County.

Black Bottom Neighborhood Detroit. Image courtesy of Detroit Is It

Explore the History of the Black Bottom Neighborhood in Detroit:

If you have an interest in Detroit’s Black history, you may want to learn about the Black Bottom neighborhood in Detroit. As in many American cities, primarily black neighborhoods were destroyed in the name of urban renewal and the construction of interstate highways.

During its heyday in the 1930s and ’40s, the legendary Detroit neighborhood of Black Bottom was home to more than a hundred thousand African Americans and their businesses. Then came urban renewal and, by 1960, this unique town and its community were gone, enduring only in memory, though the keepers of that memory have been working especially hard of late.

The history of Black Bottom is a timely topic today as the US and Michigan Departments of Transportation consider converting I-375 back into a surface street.

Just as the Black Bottom community was disregarded in the plans for its deconstruction, so too the residents of Lafayette Park have been ill-considered in discussions of the new, possible 6 to 9-lane surface street to replace I-375. Numerous public gatherings, sponsored by MDOT, relegated residents to expressing opinions via “post-it notes,” disallowing vociferous community questioning of plans. Finally, a recent town hall meeting, sponsored by State Senator Stephanie Chang, allowed for real dialogue; for Lafayette Park must move into these future plans with foresight and deliberation that was not afforded the community it replaced – or once again, the price will be paid for generations. For the souls of Black Bottom are in the DNA of Lafayette Park – and they all have something to say. source:

As Michigan residents, it’s particularly important and relevant to learn about Black history locally. Whether attending film screenings, musical performances, or art exhibitions, it’s important to focus on present-day stories like Lafayette Park. Let’s celebrate Black history and use our voices to advocate for a more just and equitable future.

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