The Burton Historic Collection at the Detroit Public Library has a collection of photographs of every house in a large area of Detroit's Black Bottom neighborhood. Black Bottom, along with Paradise Valley, was the historic heart of Detroit's African American community. The photos were taken from 1949 – 1950 by the City of Detroit as part of the eminent domain process. In the early 1950's, the city demolished the neighborhood, calling it "slum clearance." Ten years later, the city demolished Hastings Street, Black Bottom's business district, and built I-375 in its place. Together, the Burton's photographs show a snapshot of life in Black Bottom right before it was demolished.
Black Bottom Street View will map the Burton's photographs, so that visitors to the site will be able to explore the neighborhood digitally and contribute histories, memories and photos of their own. The site will include a searchable database where families can look up homes by family name and address.
Black Bottom Street View will also be making a book and an exhibition, as well as hosting events in Detroit. Please sign up for our mailing list for announcements and information about upcoming events.
We are very grateful to have received a matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as part of its Knight Arts Challenge, to do this work.
Emily Kutil is an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, a freelance designer, and a member of We the People of Detroit Community Research Collective.
Friends and Resources
Black Scroll Network and History Tours
The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
One Mile Detroit
Noir Design Parti
We the People of Detroit
Burton Historical Collection at Detroit Public Library
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Detroit Historical Museum
Knight Arts Challenge