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Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Paradise Valley: Detroit’s Lost African American Entertainment District

December 22, 2015 Archive Insight

2004.30.3.4

In the 1920s, the African American population in Detroit tripled as the automobile industry drew workers from southern states.  Housing options in a segregated city were limited, however, and many African Americans found themselves living in the poor and crowded neighborhood of Black Bottom.  In the adjacent Paradise Valley area, some residents of Black Bottom were able to make a living working in the many nightclubs and theaters providing entertainment options for audiences of multiple races.  Urban renewal projects and freeway construction in the 1960s almost completely razed both neighborhoods. Archivist Brian Wilson, intrigued by this story as one factor setting the scene for later race riots in Detroit, discovered some related photos in The Henry Ford Archive of American Innovation, which we’ve just digitized. They depict various performers at Club Harlem in Paradise Valley in the 1930s, such as this group of finely costumed dancers.

Revisit this lost neighborhood by browsing the rest of these images on our collections website.

Ellice Engdahl is Digital Collections & Content Manager at The Henry Ford.

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