The city of Detroit will honor the late Rev. Dr. Nicholas Hood Sr. by renaming a portion of the street in front of medical housing he helped fight for near the church he lead for more than a quarter century.
The sign unveiling ceremony for the nationally known minister, civil rights leader and Detroit City Council member, will be held at 1:45 p.m. Sunday, October 16 at the corner of St. Antoine and Canfield streets in Detroit in front of those apartments that bear his name.
Dr. Charles Steele, president of the national Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and retired U.S. Sen. Carl Levin will speak at the ceremony that will, for the first time, honor all living past Detroit City Council members.
A native of Terre Haute, Ind., Dr. Hood served on the front lines of the civil rights movement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. His ministry began in New Orleans, where he was a founding member and first secretary of the group that would later become the SCLC, the civil rights organization that grew out of the Montgomery bus boycotts and whose influence directly impacted successful civil rights outcomes across the country. He was a revered supporter of labor and worker’s rights, was the beloved minister of Plymouth for 26 years and served on the city council, then known as the Detroit Common Council, for 28 years.
The idea for the event came from District 3 Councilman Scott Benson, who wanted to honor the community icon, who died in April.
“I am honored to host the sign unveiling for Rev Nicholas Hood II, who was only the second black Detroit City Councilman ever, was a civil rights icon and was a real estate developer,” Benson said. “He is one of the reasons I am a councilman.”
Rev. Hood had a stellar national reputation, but what history must not lose is how his contribution as an activist helped changed the landscape of the city of Detroit.
In 1958, when Dr. Hood relocated from New Orleans to Detroit to become pastor of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ, he came armed with nine years of conducting successful spiritual and outreach ministries at the Central Congregational Church in New Orleans. There, he increased the church’s membership, built a substantial budget, planned and executed a major construction and renovation project, convinced the city to install new sewers and paved streets in neighborhoods surrounding the church. He also helped establish improved business-community partnerships to better serve residents’ health and welfare needs. And he served as mentor to fellow New Orleans minister Andrew Young, Jr.
Rev. Hood began his Detroit ministry on September 1, 1958. His first sermon – “Are You a Spectator or Participant?” – reflected a belief that framed the direction of his leadership in Detroit and was on display in a major way in 1960.
He became “fired up,” he says in his memoirs, after reading an article in the morning paper that the city had adopted a new Urban Renewal plan that would clear 450 acres of land – including razing low-income housing in the heart of the Detroit to make way for a medical center.
Conspicuously absent from the plan was the inclusion of any relocation plan for black churches and residents who were in the housing targeted for demolition. Dr. Hood decided that the community should fight back. He organized the Fellowship of Urban Churches, representing thousands of members from storefronts and large congregations. They adopted the mantra – “Urban Renewal is Negro Removal; but we are going to make it work for us as it has worked for others!” The group joined forces with the Detroit Medical Society comprising black physicians who were being denied hospital staff privileges through Wayne State University’s Medical School at Harper, Grace and Hutzel Hospitals.
The Fellowship of Urban Churches successfully argued against the Detroit hospitals’ longstanding policies that discriminated against black physicians. Dr. Hood and the coalition of black churches, labor groups and liberal community organizations helped unseat an unsympathetic Mayor Louis Miriani and several Detroit Common Council (now City Council) members. The Detroit government changeover was transformative. The attitudes of the newly elected Mayor Jerome Cavanagh and Detroit’s Common Council shifted from one of hostility to one that welcomed support for black churches and physicians, Hood said.
City officials began working with Rev. Hood and the association. He created the Plymouth Non-Profit Housing Corporation, which secured federal funding to build more than 200 apartments across from the medical center, ensuring that residents of meager means and black medical students had somewhere to live. The development of mixed income units, which sits across from the Detroit Medical Center, now bears his name.
Rev. Hood also convinced a major grocer to build a nearby shopping plaza across from Plymouth Church. He addressed other special family needs by establishing a church-based preschool and the Cyprian Center, a facility to offer programs, residential and respite care and partial day training for the developmentally disabled.
For more information, contact City Councilman Scott Benson at (313) 224-1198.