Charles H. Wright
Museum of African American History

315 East Warren in Detroit's Culture Center

This is one of the nation's most attractive moderate-sized museums. You can easily appreciate the unique exterior design. The interior is even more impressive. If you are ever inclined to provide funds for a new museum, this is an excellent one to provoke your thinking about architectural style.

Dr. Charles Wright earned his medical degree at Howard University then moved to Detroit and established a practice in obstetrics and gynecology after World War II. When visiting Denmark, he was much impressed by a museum honoring the heroes of that nation who resisted the Germans. He developed the idea for a Detroit museum that would document, preserve and teach about African-American history. In 1965, he and his colleagues established the International African American Museum and located it in a modest building on West Grand. It exhibited African masks and some memorabilia of Detroit's famous African Americans. In 1978, the City of Detroit leased a plot at 501 Frederick in the Frederick Avenue Historic District to this museum. A building was erected and opened in 1987. At this time, the name was changed to the Museum of African American History. In 1992, the city sold bonds for the construction of the building that you see—an impressive one in Detroit's Cultural Center. In 1996, city voters approved more funding for the Museum so the building was opened in 1998. The name was changed to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, honoring its founder.

This is a striking building—and the interior is even more memorable than the exterior. Displays describe the transporting of slaves from Africa to the New World, the résistance of slaves in the United States and the accomplishments of African Americans. The film and audio clips presenting Dr. King and other key figures from the Civil Rights decade are extremely informative and tell us a great deal about the history of the nation's racial conflicts. Please also note the masks on the exterior of this building, typical of the style of Mali.

Architect: Sims-Verner Architects
Date of Construction: 1998
Photo: Ren Farley, October, 2002


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