Black history enthusiast, John Green, shares his passion and purpose.

Black history enthusiast, John Green, shares his passion and purpose.

Tracking Advancement:  100 Years of Progress?  is a ground-breaking project set to  trace the progress and challenges of Michigan’s Black population from 1915 to the present.   This pioneering effort will interview and collect oral testimonies from descendants whose forbearers participated in these historic events of 1915:

The publication of the “Michigan Manual of Freedmen” a seminal document on the civic life of African Americans  in employment,  home ownership  and business fifty years after passage of the 13th Amendment.  It was researched and compiled by a panel of black leaders selected by then Michigan governor Woodbridge Ferris.

 The Lincoln Jubilee, a 25 day exposition held in Chicago in on the 50th anniversary of emancipation to commemorate the achievements of African Americans. Michigan sent 105 delegates and figured prominently in the Jubilee which drew representatives from 18 states and Puerto Rico.

These interconnected events provided the starting point for the Tracking Advancement  project team to identify descendants represented  in “Michigan Manual of Freedom” which was reprinted by John Green in 1968 as  “Negroes in Michigan History”. The reprint provides a research base for tracking accounts of African American advancement.  This project will also shed new light on these benchmark publications.

In partnership with the Michigan Historical Center and under the direction of  Dr. Michelle Johnson, Tracking Advancement is a grant funded project of the Michigan Humanities Council initiated  to expand public awareness and understanding of African American contributions to Michigan’s  history.

During the next six months the project team will conduct interviews; research historical documents such as pension records and reach out to Black churches and community organizations to come forward with their stories.

Tracking Advancement: 100 Years of Progress? is a collaborative project with participation by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and Detroit Historical Museum.  Individual contributors include such renowned local historian as John Green.

The results of this project will be captured and distributed in the form of videotaped oral histories,  speaker forums and online digital exhibits of the themes, people and places featured in the “Michigan Manual of Freedom”  In addition a timeline of migration pattern will be developed.

The Charles H. Wright Museum will post oral testimonies and videotaped lectures on their website.  Overall findings will be made available to the State of Michigan Historical Museum for inclusion in exhibits to educate the public and enhance the diversity of the state’s history.


This project is funded in part by Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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