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New research exposes Detroit’s pre-Underground Railroad history

The beleaguered city’s slavery past suggests much about its potential future
 
By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer

 

Detroit historically has been known as a key stop in the Underground Railroad, visited by Blacks escaping from slavery in the South. However, a University of Michigan professor’s current research reveals that by no means were all of the slaves in Detroit passing through to freedom, even when slavery there was illegal. “Slaves in Detroit were not as interesting [to historians] as slaves in the South,” said University of Michigan Professor Tiya Miles at the 19th annual David Noble Lecture April 9 at the University of Minnesota’s Weisman Art Museum. The city originally was founded in 1701 as a fort first owned by the French; then it was acquired by the English until the time that it became a part of the U.S. Northwest Territories. “It [was] intended to be a settlement, not just a military trading post,” explained Miles, who began researching Detroit’s history three years ago. Continue Reading →

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Emancipation Proclamation and our collective history

 

By Benjamin Todd Jealous

Guest Commentator

 

The Emancipation Proclamation, which set our nation on the path to the end of slavery, was signed 150 years ago this month. This year, we should resolve to teach our children the story of our collective history. The past century and a half offers countless tales of bravery and sacrifice to inspire the next generation. Only by sharing our history will we be able to continue our progress over the next 150 years. President Lincoln’s wartime proclamation in 1863 read that “all persons held as slaves” in rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” This was a noble idea and certainly a brave gesture. Continue Reading →

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Fragments of the Ark: Civil War saga tells of Black soldiers and survivors

 

 

Gifted novelist Louise Meriweather followed Daddy Was a Number Runner with Fragments of the Ark (Pocket Books/Simon and Schuster) a fascinating work of “faction” — well-crafted, fictional characters in an exciting tale steeped in a setting of historic fact. It’s something of, as it were, a blast from the past, having been published in 1994. Nonetheless, this is fluid, image-rich writing, capturing the African American aesthetic with strength and an expert grasp of Black culture circa the Civil War. A perfect companion for idle hours, the book is an irresistible page-turner. In late fall 1861, true to the war’s timeline, the Union Army — outmaneuvered and outmanned — is catching hell from the Confederacy, which, aided by the British, are not far from completely turning the tide inexorably toward triumph. Continue Reading →

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