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Detroit River Story Lab

The Detroit River Story Lab will work with regional organizations to co-produce and disseminate historically nuanced, contextually aware, and culturally rooted stories recasting the role of the Detroit River in the lives of adjacent communities from an anti-racist perspective and documenting its history as part of the Underground Railroad. The Story Lab will do this through three channels:

  • Secondary education: In partnership with regional scholars from the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, researchers will work with curriculum development experts at the U-M School of Education and local teachers to develop new experiential curriculum on the history and enduring effects of the Detroit River’s role in the Underground Railroad for middle and high school students in Michigan and Ontario.
  • Public history: In partnership with the Detroit River Project, a public history organization spearheaded by local activist, historian, and Underground Railroad descendent Kimberley Simmons, researchers will help to advance the group’s ongoing bid to secure a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Detroit River, in order to forge deep links to this history with the image of the city on the international stage.
  • Journalism: In partnership with the new community-based journalism nonprofit BridgeDetroit and its Pulitzer-winning director Stephen Henderson, researchers will work to promote public discussion of the place of Black history in recent efforts to redevelop the waterfront and claim it as a site of cultural heritage.

David Porter, professor, English Department, University of Michigan