Organization Name
Black Bottom Archives
About Us
Black Bottom Street View is a project to visualize and help preserve the history of Detroit’s historic Black Bottom neighborhood. 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. The photos were taken from 1949 – 1950 by the City of Detroit as part of the eminent domain process. They show a snapshot of life in Black Bottom right before it was demolished. The Black Bottom Street View exhibit maps the Burton's photographs as panoramic images, so that visitors can explore the neighborhood as it was. Although this story remains underacknowledged, the rich history of Black Bottom persists in the memories of its former residents, and through the efforts of local historians and storytellers. We feel that Black Bottom’s stories must be shared—especially at this critical moment in Detroit’s history. It is our mission is to build a platform for sharing family and community histories, and to promote the legacy of Black Bottom and the impact its residents have had on the city of Detroit and the whole of contemporary culture. We hope that Black Bottom Street View will help to make its history more visible for all of us—and that a better understanding of this history will teach us something about the current forms of displacement that are shaping Detroit today. The full Black Bottom Street View exhibition consists of: - Panoramas composed of over 2,000 photographs, showing 20 blocks of Black Bottom - 32 doorway portals made of plywood, and attached together with metal poles and cables - A large map that shows all of Black Bottom in 1951 - Two large occupiable “porches” that can be used as stages
We Participate Because
In 2014, we started Black Bottom Archives (BBA) to connect our present-day Black Detroit stories to larger narratives and histories, namely that of the Black Bottom neighborhood. We want to hold Black Detroit stories sacred as the narratives of the city continue to change in inequitable and ahistorical ways - being whitewashed, dismissed and erased. Black Bottom was a historical neighborhood in Detroit that was razed during the “urban renewal” of the 1940s-60s, displacing many Black, working-class families. BBA was started in order to connect the history of Black Bottom to the similar displacement taking place for Black Detroiters presently - water shutoffs, illegal foreclosures, school closings, divestment from resources that keep us well and safe. This history was significant to our founding and is also a growing conversation across the city because of gentrification and redevelopment in the Downtown area where Black Bottom historically stood. Our community has told us over the years that they are interested in having an accessible repository of this history and its implications, and we have (and are continuing to build) the community connections, resources and infrastructure to move it forward. We’re excited about this collection being curated in partnership with elders and their family members who lived in Black Bottom, as well as local & community organizations like Detroit Historical Society, Black Historic Sites Committee, Black Scroll Network History & Tours, Detroit Public Library, Black Bottom Supper Club, Bert’s Warehouse, the University of Michigan, Detroit Historical Society, and the Burton Historical Collection @ Detroit Public Library.