Michigan State Historic Preservation Office rolls out Detroit Civil Rights Bike Tour

Friday, October 9, 2020

Tour is one component of a larger civil rights study of historically significant sites in Detroit

The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History is the recommended starting point on the Civil Rights Bike Tour (photo courtesy of Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History)


LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office has launched an interactive Civil Rights Bike Tour around the city of Detroit to highlight many historically significant sites that describe the civil rights movement in Michigan’s largest city, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced today. The bike tour is part of a larger project to identify and document historically significant sites in Detroit relating to the 20th Century African American Civil Rights movement. The project is funded through an African American Civil Rights program grant by the National Park Service (NPS).

“The places associated with the struggle for African American civil rights in the city of Detroit represent a particularly fragile class of resource. It is vital that we preserve the cultural legacy and story of these important buildings and sites,” said Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer Martha MacFarlane-Faes. “This tour is not only an opportunity for cyclists to discover stunning Detroit architecture, but more importantly, to see firsthand and learn about Detroit’s African American history and the 20th-century civil rights movement that took place there.”

The bike tour is a route, not a single event. Participants can follow the route on their bikes by going to www.miplace.org/biketour. The tour is fully mobile responsive and is easy to navigate right from a smartphone or tablet. More information is available about each civil rights site by selecting them individually from a list, or just following the route on the tour map. If location services are enabled on participants’ devices, it will show the user their location in relation to the stops just as if navigating by GPS.

The recommended route begins and ends at the famed Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History on Warren Avenue with 20 stops in between, but participants are free to take a different path between stops, or alter the route entirely if they want to make it into a shorter loop and not see all of the sites in a single trip. The entire loop with all 20 stops is about 17 miles in length. The bike tour will also be accessible from the SHPO’s website for the civil rights project.

The historic Russell Woods/Sullivan neighborhood in Detroit saw an influx of African American residents, including a number of celebrities, move in during the 1950s (photo courtesy of Michigan State Historic Preservation Office)


The stops on the route were chosen by a 14-person civil rights advisory board, who looked at sites in a concentrated area of the city that was conducive to a bike tour. Most of the sites were associated with the period of the 1950-1970s and the growth of the Black Power movement, and most vividly bring the stories and places of the 20th-century civil rights movement in Detroit to the public.

The NPS grant, awarded to SHPO in 2016, was part of $7.5 million in funds awarded for 39 projects in more than 20 states that preserve and highlight the sites and stories associated with the Civil Rights Movement and the African American experience. SHPO’s overall components of this initial grant were: 1) a survey of 30 sites significant to the civil rights movement in Detroit, 2) the preparation of documentation to add several of these identified sites to the National Register of Historic Places and a context document that more holistically describes the civil rights movement in Detroit as a whole, 3) the creation of the interactive bike tour, 4) the creation of three Michigan Historical Markers, and 5) the launch of an expanded web presence which will share all of this information to the public. The additional components will be unveiled in the coming months.

Focused on the historic preservation of culturally or archaeologically significant sites throughout the state, Michigan's State Historic Preservation Office’s main function is to provide technical assistance to local communities in their efforts to identify, evaluate, designate, interpret and protect Michigan’s historic above- and below-ground resources. SHPO also administers an incentives program that includes federal tax credits and pass-through grants available to certified local governments.

To learn more about the State Historic Preservation Office, visit https://www.miplace.org/historic-preservation/.


This material was produced with assistance from the Historic Preservation Fund, administered by the National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.