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"What this park has always meant": Detroit's Birwood Wall gets historical marker

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Briana Rice
/
Michigan Radio
The Birwood Wall

Keith T. Slack grew up in the Eight Mile and Wyoming neighborhood near Detroit's historic Birwood Wall.

He'd hang out in the Alfonso Wells Memorial Park surrounding the half-mile and six foot wall and see it regularly but he didn't realize the significance of the wall until he was much older.

He hopes it'll be different for children who get to see the concrete wall now covered in a multifaceted mural. It also has a new historic marker - one with a message letting everyone one know why it was built and for who.

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Briana Rice
/
Michigan Radio
The Birdwood Wall

Detroit’s Birwood Wall has been dedicated a historic Michigan site. The Birwood Wall was officially recognized by National Register of Historic Places in 2021.

The wall was a built by a white real estate developer in 1941 to separate a white neighborhood from a Black one.

The wall’s now covered in a mural featuring children blowing bubbles, the Detroit tigers, the activist Alfonso Wells, who the park surrounding the wall is named for.

Jamon Jordan is Detroit’s official historian.

"It tells the story of an actual community that's here, not just the racist policy of the developer and the federal government. So we've got both stories. We've got the story of there's an act of community living here. And we got the story of the history of the building of this wall, which was really to symbolize racial discrimination," he said during a Monday celebration of the wall's new designation.

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Briana Rice
/
The Birwood Wall got a new historic marker.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan was there as the new sign was unveiled.

He said the was built because of a federal policy of redlining. He says the government wouldn't make guaranteed loans to developers building in neighborhoods that rented to people who weren't white.

The wall is still standing.

Shack said he felt proud to be there.

"We don't let it get whitewashed. We don't let it go away. We don't just say, 'hey, that was something that was this.' We're trying to preserve and maintain what that plot and what that wall and what this park has always meant."

Briana Rice is a reporter/producer operating out of Detroit.