Gentrifying Detroit And Building Invisible Walls

Jamon Jordan is a writer, educator and historian dedicated to telling the truth about history.

When Black people began to migrate to Detroit in large numbers during the Great Migration, white Detroiters used racial restrictive covenants and other forms of housing discrimination to keep Black people out of certain neighborhoods. There were “sundown areas” in Detroit, that Black people had to stay out of before sundown.

Cass Corridor was a notorious sundown area. The same for the 8 Mile/VanDyke area.

A 6 foot high, half-mile long wall was even built between Birwood and Mendota from 8 Mile to Chippewa to segregate Black residents from white residents.

The wall is still there.

When white residents began to leave Detroit in the late 40s-early 50s to flee to the suburbs, Black people were kept out by redlining, steering, and other forms of discrimination.

The suburbs became “sundown towns,” Black people, even workers, had to be out of the town by sundown.

Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Royal Oak, Warren, East Detroit (Eastpointe), the Grosse Pointes, Sterling Heights, Livonia, Westland and most notoriously – Dearborn – were ALL “sundown towns,” from the 1920s-1960s.

Even Ferndale was a “sundown town.”


Yep. Ferndale.

So now, when you look at the gentrification in downtown, and Midtown, and the high-level of energy devoted to making THAT the place for “new Detroiters,” who are, in many cases, the grandchildren of the whites who left 50 and 60 years ago, you have to look at the historical context.

Then, you’ll understand why they’re building whole neighborhoods of condos in Lafayette Park, and why instead of moving to areas in Detroit where there’s plenty of vacant land, they’re building an apartment building on top of a downtown parking lot.

The aim is to RE-CREATE a suburb WITHIN the city of Detroit. An area, that although is technically a part of a predominantly Black city, will look and feel like a SEPARATE CITY.

Because MANY of the new Detroiters don’t really want to live in an 85% Black city.

They want to carve out a fiefdom and, for all intents and purposes, separate that area from the rest of the city and have their suburb back.


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