This past weekend, hundreds of people from across country made the trek to Detroit to join in the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Shrine of the Black Madonna. The Shrine has held special significance not only to Detroiters but to African Americans throughout the nation – and even the world – as a house of worship that has long served as a potent center of gravity for black political power. Without its support, the late Coleman A. Young most likely would never have been elected as the first black mayor of Detroit. Other black political leaders got their start with the assistance and guidance of the Shrine as well.
The late Rev. Albert Cleage, who preached what he referred to as ‘black Christian nationalism’, was a powerful figure during the ‘60s who used the Shrine as the base of his leadership. Cleage later renamed himself Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman.
The actual painting of the Black Madonna, painted by the late Glanton Dowdell, was unveiled just months prior to the explosion of social unrest that gripped the city during the ’67 Rebellion. It has remained a powerful symbol of black empowerment.