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Years after it was razed, Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood revived in digital form

Feb 28, 2017

In today’s Detroit Free Press, there's an article titled Bringing Detroit’s Black Bottom back to (virtual) life.

It tells the story of a young Detroit architect named Emily Kutil who's trying to bring a neighborhood that no longer exists back to life ... in digital form. 

Bill McGraw wrote that article, and he joined Stateside today.

McGraw said it all began when Kutil stumbled upon a treasure trove of more than 800 photos from the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library. The photos were of a long-lost neighborhood called Black Bottom, once located at the current site of Lafayette Park on the east side of downtown.

"[Kutil is] someone who is into geography and the history of Detroit and she's also ... very good with a computer," McGraw said. "And she's stitching together these hundreds of photos to create a Google Street scene of pre-1950's Detroit for this neighborhood." 

McGraw said Black Bottom holds important cultural significance for people throughout the region.

"It is the neighborhood where many African Americans, not only in Detroit, but in Southeast Michigan trace their roots to," McGraw said.

Listen to the full interview above to hear how Black Bottom began, what it was like and how it ended.

You'll also hear about the Detroit Free Press' upcoming documentary about the 1967 uprising in Detroit, 12th and Clairmount. It premieres March 30.

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