A New Bike Tour Takes Cyclists Through Civil Rights History in Detroit

The 20-stop route highlights sites across the city that are associated with 1950s-1970s civil rights history and the Black Power movement

Locals can now learn about the civil rights movement in Detroit through a new, interactive bike tour. Launched by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office earlier this month, the route was chosen by a 14-person civil rights advisory board and takes cyclists through nearly 17 miles of Black history in the city.

The recommended tour route for the Civil Rights Bike Tour starts and ends at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and features 20 stops, many of which are associated with 1950s-1970s civil rights history and the Black Power movement.

Stops include the Bethel AME Church on St. Antoine Street, a church built by Nathan Johnson, one of Detroit’s most prominent African American architects, for one of the oldest Black congregations in the city; James H. Cole Home for Funerals, one of the first businesses operated by Black Detroiters in the early 20th century; and Vaughn’s Bookstore, the first Black bookstore in the city that specialized in African American history and literature.

civil rights bike tour
Photograph courtesy of Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

“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,” says Martha MacFarlane-Faes, deputy state historic preservation officer. “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.”

Participants can visit miplace.org/biketour for the full tour route. The website, which can be accessed via mobile device as cyclists ride around town, features information on each stop on the tour. Riders can also turn on location services on their cell phone to track their location from the website.

The Michigan State Historic Preservation Office’s bike tour project is funded through an African American Civil Rights program grant from the National Park Service. As part of the grant, the office will unveil more projects related to the civil rights movement in the coming months.

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