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Detroit History

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History Resources

Detroit Historical Museums & Society

Learning is a lifelong process. That's why the Detroit Historical Museums and Society provide a wide range of learning experiences to interest everyone from the age of 3 to 133! Take a look at our rich offering of things to do. Our programs, workshops, and special events each explore a part of Detroit's story, and take place at one of our museums or at other fascinating locations important to Metro Detroit's rich history.

In 1840, at the point on the Detroit River closest to British Canada, the United States Army began surveying local farms for the placement of new artillery post. The five-point star fort was slated to have the most up to date cannons capable of firing on the Canadian shore as well as ships sailing the river.

This new fort was Detroit's third, but the first built by the Americans. In 1701, shortly after Cadillac landed, the French began building Fort Detroit, which was surrendered to the British in 1760 after the French and Indian War. The British built a new fort several years later and named it Lernoult, which they occupied until 1796 when the United stated took over Detroit and renamed the battlement Fort Shelby.

Museum of African American History

Dr. Charles Wright, an obstetrician and gynecologist, envisioned an institution to preserve Black history after visiting a memorial to Danish World War II heroes in Denmark. As a result of this visit, he was convinced that Black Americans needed a similar resource center to document, preserve and educate the public on their history, life and culture.

In 1965, he established Detroit's first International Afro-American Museum. The museum, known by the acronym IAM, opened on West Grand Boulevard with dozens of exhibits showcasing such items as African masks from Nigeria and Ghana and the inventions of Elijah McCoy. A year later, the IAM traveling museum, housed in a converted mobile home, began touring the state and spreading information about the contributions of African Americans.

, Michigan Timeline

March 6, Charles King of Detroit is the first person to test drive a gasoline-powered automobile in Michigan. Three months later, also in Detroit, Henry Ford drives his gasoline-powered, two-cylinder quadricycle.

The Ford Model T is first manufactured.

The first primary election in Michigan is held.

Detroit's WWJ begins commercial broadcasting of regular programs, the first such radio station in the United States.

The Detroit-Windsor Tunnel opens to automobile traffic.

May 2, Two hundred young men from Detroit arrive at an isolated spot in Chippewa County and set up Camp Raco—Michigan's first Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) facility.

In the midst of the Great Depression, the United Automobile Workers of America (UAW) is organized in Detroit.

December 30, Spurred by an unfounded rumor that work is going to be transferred to plants with weak union support, autoworkers begin a spontaneous sit-down strike at General Motors Corporation (GMC) plants in Flint.

Auto plants are converted to the production of war materials, helping Michigan become known as the "Arsenal of Democracy" on Oct 1, 1942.

November 1, The five-mile long Mackinac Bridge opens on November 1.

Berry Gordy, Jr. founds Motown Records in Detroit.

The new State Constitution is ratified at the April election.

Riots erupt in Detroit amidst racial tensions.

Gerald R. Ford of Grand Rapids becomes the 38th President of the United States.

Throwaway bottles are banned by a referendum vote.

The Renaissance Center is dedicated, marking a revival of downtown Detroit.

The Republican National Convention is held in Detroit.

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum are dedicated in Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids, respectively.

January 26, Michigan celebrates 150 years of statehood.

The Michigan Library and Historical Center is dedicated in Lansing.

Michigan State University hosts the third and final Presidential debate. The State Capitol building is fully restored and rededicated.
A constitutional amendment is adopted limiting the number of terms an official can serve as governor or as a federal or state Senator or Representative.

The J. L. Hudson's building in Detroit is demolished. Chrysler Corporation merges with the German auto company Daimler-Benz, forming DaimlerChrysler.

Detroit celebrates its 300th anniversary.