The Black Bottom Street View is an exhibit by the Black Bottom Archives Project available at the Dequindre Cut Walk in Detroit from June 19 to July 31, 2023. This exhibit presents photos from the former Black Bottom neighborhood, which previously stood on the grounds of the Dequindre Cut, where the exhibit is located. Its surrounding area is now known as the Lafayette Park residential district. Members of Michigan Humanities, including Jennifer Rupp, President & CEO, visited the exhibit during its opening day on Juneteenth. The sun was out, and many people from Detroit and other areas came to the exhibit. While walking and looking through the panoramic photos from 1949 to 1950 (made available by the Burton Historic Collection at the Detroit Public Library), many visitors recalled childhood memories and stories about their grandparents’ former houses in the once-booming neighborhood.
Through the panoramic photographs with street addresses, the exhibit aims to explore the Black Bottom neighborhood as it was visually. The pictures include images of homes, businesses, and the people living there. We see people congregating, walking, or sitting just outside their homes, a very lively neighborhood. It was inspiring to see so many people show up and walk through the exhibit; it felt like a re-enactment of a neighborhood that perhaps still is. Many visitors recalled being in the neighborhood in their childhood years, and many others were seeing the neighborhood for the first time. Yet, everyone can still recognize the streets by the addresses that remain. Now apartment buildings and highways stand in those addresses. While buildings and urban landscapes may take many forms, where did the people in the images go? The exhibit is also a tale about displacement and people who, at one point, were overrun by specific visions of urban development but who continued to make Detroit their home.
Michigan Humanities is proud to have contributed to funding this powerful exhibit and congratulates the Black Bottom Archives on their work! We invite you to visit this exhibit, available through July 31st.