“Hold Me Up”: Narrative Histories of Black Community Building in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, 1910s-1970s

Two beautiful murals illustrate the dynamic history of African American communities in Washtenaw County. The first, located on the corner of Fourth and Ann Streets in Ann Arbor, features several Black ministers, teachers, elected officials, and activists in celebration of the rich history of the Fourth Ward, the center of African American life in the city for much of the twentieth century. The second is located in Ypsilanti. A mural of H.P. Jacobs, an inventor during the late-nineteenth century, frames Currie’s Barbershop on Harriet Street, one of the oldest Black-owned businesses in the city.

These artistic renditions offer a glimpse into the rich histories of Black communities in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This public history project offers five narrative histories that function very much like these dynamic murals—to illustrate and animate the histories and labor of local Black residents of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.

“Hold Me Up” is part of Michigan in the World (MITW), a paid undergraduate internship program where students develop online public exhibitions. MITW is coordinated by the  U-M History Department  in partnership with the  Bentley Historical Library  and the  College of Literature, Science, and the Arts 

Project Team

Bentley Michigan in the World Fellows: Krista Albertins, Isabella Buzynski, Paige Hodder, Miriam Saperstein, Bennett Walling

Faculty Coordinator: Jennifer Dominique Jones

Graduate Student Supervisor: Eshe Sherley

Public Engagement Manager: Gregory Parker

Archivists: Sarah McLusky, Cinda Nofziger, Brian Williams



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