Culture

403. Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History – April 6, 2019 – Detroit, MI

April2019CharlesWright1 (4)April was a scant time of new-place visits for me, but I did kick off the month with an impactful cultural experience, a visit to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit.

I’d long been wanting to visit the museum and was excited to finally make it happen one Saturday afternoon. A friend joined me for the experience.

The Charles H. Wright Museum building itself is impressive in its beauty, especially the glass ceiling dome at the center of it. Entering it, we were greeted by friendly museum staff members, who explained the admission options. We opted for general admission rather than admittance to the special exhibits and spent several hours touring through the museum.

The general exhibits are an impressive collection of historical artifacts, fact boards, and experiential displays. We started at the beginning, learning about cultural practices of ancient African nations, then worked our way through exhibits around the slave trade and slavery in America; the Civil War and the Reconstruction era; the Civil Rights movement; and the history of African Americans in Detroit.

The exhibits were a sombering experience to take in. The walk through a reproduction of the hold of a slave ship, with depictions of males, females, and children chained and packed together so tightly, as audio of moaning and wailing played over a loudspeaker was especially emotional for me, almost overwhelming. I cannot fathom what it would be like to be in such an experience, taken from your home against your will and chained up in these tight quarters, lying in your and everyone else’s waste, subjected to extreme cruelty. . ..

It was pretty hard for me to not lose faith in humanity going through this slave ship reproduction and many other exhibits, such as one where a slave trader is rattling off stats about people for sale as if they were cattle. Again, the fact that such a barbaric practice as the buying, selling, and controlling of people was at one time an accepted institution in this country is mind-boggling to me.

It was a moment of emotional respite for me to get to the part of the museum that depicted neighborhoods of Detroit that were historically African-American, such as Black Bottom. It included an expansive representation of the cityscape from that time, with depictions of businesses that you could walk right into such as a drug store with a soda fountain and a barbershop with a mannequin barber cutting hair, which I found super fun. I did not find fun the fact that Black Bottom was demolished to make room for the Chrysler Freeway and other development projects.

The Charles H. Wright Museum does an excellent job of reminding one of these sordid aspects of American history. It’s also a beautiful testiment to the strength and resilience of African-Americans in the face of horrific brutality, rascism, and oppression. Locals and visitors to the Metro-Detroit area alike could benefit from paying a visit to this informative and impactful institution.

315 E. Warren Ave.

Detroit, MI 48201

www.thewright.org

92. Detroit Historical Museum – December 27, 2014 – Detroit, MI

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Shown here is a corner of the 1870s reproduction of Sanders Confectionary, where its beloved hot-fudge sundae only cost 10 cents!

I didn’t even know the Detroit Historical Museum existed until some time in the recent past. Why in the heck did I never go on any school field trips there? My elementary school took us to the Science Center about a jillion times . . .. I know astronaut ice cream is awesome and everything – I’m just suggesting it might lose a little of its luster after a kid’s third visit in about as many years.

The Detroit Historical Museum is definitely worth at least one visit. What a great place for a family trip – it’s fun and educational and FREE admission. (How often is stuff to do with kids free?) And while I’m only a gradeschooler at heart these days, I still found it absorbing enough to spend almost two-and-a-half hours following the history of the D through its journey from a French trading post to a majorly populated American manufacturing hub to a city gravely wounded by racial tensions, crime, and blight to, finally, a survivor-town invigorated by ingenuity, resourcefulness, and reinvention. This story is illustrated by several floors of displays, including the Streets of Old Detroit exhibit, where visitors can walk into and explore reproductions of mid-19th- and early-20th-century city businesses, and the Allesee Gallery of Culture, which thoroughly explores Detroit’s 20th-century rise and fall and rise again through a myriad of artifacts, from a bronzed Joe Louis glove to a Bob Seger guitar. I experienced numerous teary surges of civic pride as I explored the rich history and was reminded how great this area really is.

5401 Woodward Ave.,

Detroit, MI 48202

http://detroithistorical.org/