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Black History: Special Delivery!!



Detroit’s First Race Riot & Toronto’s First Cab Company

Black History: Special Delivery!!

 Thornton and Lucie Blackburn fled from enslavement in Kentucky in 1831. They fled north to Detroit, MI and became beloved members of the local community. Their former master attempted to apprehend them from Detroit in 1833. The Blackburn’s were jailed for violating the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. A day before they were scheduled to be returned to slavery, the actions of several brave African American men and women secured their escape to permanent freedom. Continue reading “Detroit’s First Race Riot & Toronto’s First Cab Company”

Sphinx Orchestra: Changing The Face of Classical Music

Black History:  Special Delivery!!


Sphinx is a national non-profit organization, headquartered in Detroit, MI. It was founded by Dr. Aaron Dworkin and Carrie Chester. The organization was founded when both were students at U of M.  Dr. Dworkin, who started playing the violin as a child often noticed that few performers or audience members were people of color.

Dr. Aaron Dworkin
Dr. Aaron Dworkin

Seeking to create more diversity in the field of classical music, Sphinx was founded. Sphinx held its inaugural “Sphinx Competition” in 1998. The competition gives opportunities for young musicians of color to compete, receive mentorship and education from nationally acclaimed musicians.  Sphinx also provides the Sphinx Overture Program which offers free violin lessons to students in underserved communities. Also offered is the Sphinx Performance Academy a summer chamber music program for Black and Latino musicians ages 12-17. Sphinx is committed to transforming lives through increasing diversity in the arts. The organization has made some impressive inroads in the field of classical music. In its first 10 years, according to the League of American Orchestras, orchestras that were part of their membership that reported an increase in diversity of people of color had some relationship with the Sphinx Organization. Sphinx also reports that their graduates are represented at all of the top 10 music schools in the U.S. Sphinx is constantly working toward fulfilling its mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Click on the link below to see a short video about Sphinx:

Albert Cleage: Founder The Shrine of The Black Madonna

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

Albert Cleage

Rev. Albert B. Cleage 1911-2000 (later changed his name to Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman) was a theologian, nationalist, civil rights leader and father. He was a major influence on Detroit politics and black nationalism. He established the Central United Church of Christ in Detroit in 1956.

Cleage had become disenchanted with the white hierarchy of his denomination. Though he had served in integrated church settings; it seemed disheartening to him because he felt that he continued to witness racism and unfair treatment.

In 1970, shortly after the unveiling of an 18-foot painting of a Black Madonna in his church, the name was changed to Shrine of the Black Madonna and the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church denomination was created. The church also maintained the Shrine of The Black Madonna Cultural Center.  It was a hub of progressive, African-centered, religious, cultural and political activity. He contended, that Christ and many of his disciples were African in origin and suggested that Europeans had captured and twisted Christianity to assist in their enslaving Africans. He argued strongly for African American control of their own fate.


Albert Cleage in front of Shrine of The Black Madonna in Detroit

Cleage did not believe in integration for blacks. He felt that it was important for blacks to obtain and maintain an economic, political, and social environment independently. He founded the City-wide Citizens Action Committee to support black businesses. He also promoted the education of black children by black teachers.

In the 1970s, Cleage expanded the church to Atlanta and Houston. Cleage was also very active in politics. Though he ran for office several times, he never won. However, his candidacies and advocacy led to the creation of the Black Slate, an organization that was instrumental in electing Detroit’s first Black mayor, Coleman Young, as well as other political officials. Cleage was also very instrumental as part of the 1960’s Black Power Movement.  He authored 2 books, “The Black Messiah” and “Black Christian Nationalism.”

Growing up in Detroit, The Shrine Of The Black Madonna Cultural Center was an icon in Black community. But I was not fully aware of its origins or impact. I’m wondering if any of the Black Mail blog readers are familiar with Albert Cleage?

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1963 Walk To Freedom: 1st Time “I Have A Dream Speech” Shared By MLK

Black History:  Special Delivery!!

(11886) Civil Rights, Marches, "Walk to Freedom", Detroit, 1963

Left to right: Walter Reuther, Benjamin McFall, James Del Rio, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rev. C.L. Franklin. Behind Franklin is Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh.

Two months before the “March On Washington” was held, there was The “Walk To Freedom”  on June 23, 1963.  Held in Detroit, it was the largest ever civil rights demonstration in the country at the time. It was estimated that approximately 125,000 people marched down Woodward Avenue in Detroit.

It was also the first time that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous, “I Have A Dream Speech”.  National and state leaders who marched along with Reverend King included United Auto Workers president Walter Reuther, former Michigan governor John B. Swainson, and Detroit mayor Jerome Cavanagh.

The march ended at Cobo Hall where Dr. King was cheered by thousands of supporters when he stated that segregation needed to end.  Dr. King believed that it was the responsibility of African Americans to take part in peaceful demonstrations like the Walk to Freedom, which he called, “one of the most wonderful things that has happened in America.”

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