A Michigan historical marker has been installed at the site of the Birwood Wall, which at one time stood as a symbol of racism and housing segregation in Detroit, in the Eight Mile-Wyoming neighborhood. Known also as the Wailing Wall or the Eight Mile wall, for its location, the wall was erected in 1941 by a real estate developer in an effort to separate his housing development for white residents from the adjacent African American neighborhood nearby.
By the 1950’s, Black families lived on both sides of the Birwood wall. The wall has since been painted to symbolize the resilience and resolve of African Americans in the area. One Detroit senior producer Bill Kubota and contributing producer Daijah Moss visited the unveiling of the Birwood Wall historical marker to learn more about the city’s and residents’ efforts to move forward.
Will Glover, Host, One Detroit: A Michigan historical marker has been installed at the site of a one-time symbol of racism and housing segregation in Detroit. The Birwood Wall, located in the Eight Mile and Wyoming area, was built by a White real estate developer in 1941 as a means of separating his housing project for White residents from the adjacent African-American neighborhood.
Mike Duggan, Mayor, City of Detroit: Well, this is a special day and a recognition that is long overdue. It is really important to remember the history of discrimination in this city. It still casts its shadow today.
Angela Calloway, Detroit City Council Member, District 2: The wall erected in 1941 was intended to be something negative. But it’s ending up being something quite positive because look at all of us here today.
Jamon Jordan, Detroit City Historian: Housing discrimination, which this wall symbolizes, is not just racism. It is that, but it is also environmental racism. We are living with the legacy of that, but we’re also living with the legacy of people who, despite all of that, kept moving forward.
Brian Egen, President, Michigan Historical Commission: These markers commemorate the events, the people, places that define Michigan, what it’s all about. They are physical reminders of our values, ideals of service and sacrifice, of tragic stories, of celebratory achievements. They educate and they inspire, and hopefully that they will inspire more stories to come out.
Teresa Moon, Resident, 8 Mile-Wyoming Neighborhood: My whole passion is about making sure that the quality of life is good for the people that I live around. Making sure that it’s understood that we deserve equality just like everybody else. Make sure that you know the love and the commitment and the strength that was passed down from the people who had the tenacity to keep this community together, never die. So it’s all about Eight Mile for me.
Will Glover: By the 1950s, Black families lived on both sides of the Birwood Wall. And today the wall is an artistic symbol of the city’s strength and efforts to move forward.
Carol Jackson, Social Worker/Detroit Resident: Now it’s a positive thing. We painted the wall. We can’t knock the wall down because the wall is designated here now. But now it’s a celebration that it means to me that we are all equal.
Kelly T. Shack, Detroit Resident: When that plaque came up, it just made us… We always knew we were legit, but it just made us to the world say, this is something that happened. We’re not going to let it go.
Martin Armstad, 8 Mile Community Detroit Resident: I’m glad to see that the wall is still standing because if the wall was torn down, then the memory of the wall will be gone. So I’m glad to see that the remembrance of what happened over here is still being carried on.
Sandra Epps, Detroit Resident & Owner, Sandy’s Land: The kids who play basketball, who don’t have a clue, you know, they don’t have a clue of what this is all about. I mean, literally, these young people that live here, they don’t know. But having this plaque and they’re playing that basketball and they walk by, they will know the history of this wall here. Yeah.
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