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Mosher Jordan dormitory

New Ways to See the Research

Experiments with data visualization can showcase patterns of segregation, marginalization, and discrimination.

Mosher-Jordan dormitory, 1930.

An Interactive Experience

After identifying places where African American students lived on campus, Bentley researchers worked with University of Michigan Visualization Librarian Justin Joque and his team to integrate the collected information with a 1930 Sanborn Insurance map of Ann Arbor overlaid on a large regional map.

African American U-M Student Residences

1853-1973 (approx)

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Map Legend

This interactive map plots local addresses for African American students at the University of Michigan.

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Information for Understanding the Map

This interactive map plots local addresses for African American students at the University of Michigan. Clusters identify housing concentrations. These concentrations reveal patterns of segregation. Boarding house options were limited for African American students, particularly prior to World War II. After World War II, African American students began to live in university-owned housing with greater regularity.

Some prominent addresses include the following.

1102 East Ann. A house for African American women established by the university in 1929. It was managed by Alice Benjamin and was widely known as the Benjamin House or the B House.

1136 East Catherine. Boarding house operated by Edward and Magnolia Lewis. More than 150 African American men lived there in the 1940s and 1950s.

1015 East Catherine. A boarding house owned by Esther Dickson. In 1921 it was the location of the probationary Phi chapter of Omega Psi Phi fraternity. Dickson primarily rented to male students, but briefly rented to women in the late 1920s. The address was listed as a tourist house in the 1948 edition of The Negro Motorist Green Book.

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Event Locations of the Map

The orange dots on the map represent the location of events significant in the lives of Black women on campus. Locations represent sites of protest, or places where important events occurred. The dots are part of a tour “Walking in the Steps of Black Women: A History of the University of Michigan.” The tour was developed as part of a class project.

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Tips for Using the Map

The sliding bar allows for focusing on a single year or range of years. Each bar in the graph represents a single academic year. Click a single bar to view data for one year. Drag the cursor over multiple bars to view data for a range of years.

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U-M Data Patterns

Additional ways to visualize and chart historical data about African American students on campus.

  • See description below

    African American Male Student Enrollment by Year

    From 1900 to 1934, the numbers fluctuated between 25-45 enrollees annually, with a significant dip during World War I. The sharp rise in the mid-1930s reflects the impact of “segregation scholarships” provided by southern states primarily to graduate students as a way to avoid integrating state schools or providing “separate but equal” in-state options. There is a slow decline during the Great Depression to a nadir at the end of World War II. The sharp increase beginning in 1945 may in part be a resurgence in “segregation scholarships,” but more importantly reflects returning WW II veterans and the impact of the GI Bill. The post-war surge peaks in 1950 and begins a fairly sharp decline.

    View Data

    African American Male Student Enrollment by Year

    From 1900 to 1934, the numbers fluctuated between 25-45 enrollees annually, with a significant dip during World War I. The sharp rise in the mid-1930s reflects the impact of “segregation scholarships” provided by southern states primarily to graduate students as a way to avoid integrating state schools or providing “separate but equal” in-state options. There is a slow decline during the Great Depression to a nadir at the end of World War II. The sharp increase beginning in 1945 may in part be a resurgence in “segregation scholarships,” but more importantly reflects returning WW II veterans and the impact of the GI Bill. The post-war surge peaks in 1950 and begins a fairly sharp decline.

  • See description below

    African American Female Student Enrollment by Year

    Starting from very low numbers 1900-1920, there is a slow but steady increase through the mid-1930s. The sharp rise beginning in 1934 reflects the advent of “segregation scholarships.” The impact of the Great Depression does not seem as severe on female enrollment. WW II causes an initial drop, but then there is a surge for female enrollees from 1943-1945. The post-war rate of decline for women is significantly lower than for men.

    View Data

    African American Female Student Enrollment by Year

    Starting from very low numbers 1900-1920, there is a slow but steady increase through the mid-1930s. The sharp rise beginning in 1934 reflects the advent of “segregation scholarships.” The impact of the Great Depression does not seem as severe on female enrollment. WW II causes an initial drop, but then there is a surge for female enrollees from 1943-1945. The post-war rate of decline for women is significantly lower than for men.

  • See description below

    African American Summer Enrollment by Year – All Students

    This displays total enrollment of all African American students in summer sessions, though the population skews heavily toward graduate students. The sharp increase beginning in 1935 reflects the advent of the “segregation scholarships.” After the decline during WW II, the rebound reflects a return to pre-war levels of “segregation scholarships” with some additional impact of the GI Bill. Part of the decline after the early 1950s may be attributable to the slow integration of graduate programs in some southern states.

    View Data

    African American Summer Enrollment by Year – All Students

    This displays total enrollment of all African American students in summer sessions, though the population skews heavily toward graduate students. The sharp increase beginning in 1935 reflects the advent of the “segregation scholarships.” After the decline during WW II, the rebound reflects a return to pre-war levels of “segregation scholarships” with some additional impact of the GI Bill. Part of the decline after the early 1950s may be attributable to the slow integration of graduate programs in some southern states.

You can also take a virtual tour of sites of importance for African American women at the University of Michigan. This was developed in conjunction with Michigan in the World in the Department of History.

More than a Location

Specific structures around Ann Arbor became important culturally and socially for African American students at U-M.

Two-story house facing street

1009 Catherine Street (The Dunbar Center) circa 1937.

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1017 Catherine Street circa 1911.

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1102 East Ann Street, undated.

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blue house at 144 Hill with snow in front yard

The house at 144 Hill Street still stands today.

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1136 Catherine Street, image taken from the Ellis Family Story.

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1103 East Huron Street, the Alpha Phi Alpha house.

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tan house with front porch

1345 Geddes Avenue still houses U-M students today.

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1702 Hill Street from the Michigan Chronicle, 1954.

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church facing street with trees surrounding it

Bethel AME Church, image courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

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Large dormitory in black and white, situated on a hill.

Mosher-Jordan Hall, circa 1930.

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Muriel Lester House, 909 East University.

The Muriel Lester House at 909 East University Avenue.

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Oxford Housing complex, image courtesy of Wikimedia.

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Second Baptist Church, image courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

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1009 Catherine Street (The Dunbar Center) circa 1937.

1009 East Street not only provided a place to live for nearly 300 African American students during the early 20th century, it also became a center for the Black community in Ann Arbor more generally as the home of the Dunbar Community Center.

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Two-story house facing street

1017 Catherine Street circa 1911.

The house at 1017 Catherine Street provided lodging to African American students for more than 50 years. In 1909, it witnessed a significant moment of Michigan history when six Black students gathered there to form Epsilon Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the first African American Greek organization at U-M.

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1102 East Ann Street, undated.

The house that stood at 1102 East Ann was one of the most important locations in the history of African American students at Michigan. From 1931 to 1945, “University House Number 2” was the primary residence for female Black students and a major social hub for all African Americans at the University.

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The house at 144 Hill Street still stands today.

For nearly 60 years, this eight-bedroom house was one of the most prominent residences for the University’s African American students and for Black travelers visiting the city. So well known was the “Dickson House,” that it was included in the Negro Motorist Green Book—the only Ann Arbor home ever listed.

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blue house at 144 Hill with snow in front yard

1136 Catherine Street, image taken from the Ellis Family Story.

Overseen by Roberta Ellis Britt, the house at 1136 Catherine Street was the successor to the one on 1102 East Ann as a home organized by the University for female African American students to live. For the decade between 1946 and 1956, more than 120 Black women, mostly graduate students, lived there.

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1103 East Huron Street, the Alpha Phi Alpha house.

The frame house at 1103 East Huron Street served as the first Black fraternity house at the University. From 1923 to 1936, the brothers of Epsilon Chapter Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity made their home there.

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1345 Geddes Avenue still houses U-M students today.

The house at 1345 Geddes is where seven Black football players, the highest number in a single recruiting class the University had yet known, made their home at “The Den of the Mellow Men” in 1970.

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tan house with front porch

1702 Hill Street from the Michigan Chronicle, 1954.

The two-story clapboard house at 1702 Hill Street has a special place in the history of Michigan’s Greek life: it became the first house owned by an African American fraternity when Kappa Alpha Psi’s Sigma Chapter purchased it in 1954.

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Bethel AME Church, image courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

Ann Arbor’s African Methodist Episcopal Church opened its doors at 632 North Fourth Avenue to worshippers in 1896. It would be far more than a place of worship for Michigan’s Black students and for the city’s growing African American community, hosting a vast array of talks, community dinners, and offering space for student meetings and clubs.

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church facing street with trees surrounding it

Mosher-Jordan Hall, circa 1930.

Michigan opened the doors to its first dormitory, Mosher-Jordan Hall, in 1930. Even though at least two Black students applied, every student living there was white. It took years of activism by Black students, their parents, and alumni before Mosher-Jordan fully opened its doors to African Americans.

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Large dormitory in black and white, situated on a hill.

The Muriel Lester House at 909 East University Avenue.

Muriel Lester House is part of Michigan’s Inter-Cooperative Council. Founded in 1940, the house was the inspiration of African American student Jean Fairfax and white student Josephine Rouse as the University’s first explicitly inter-racial and inter-faith housing unit.

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Muriel Lester House, 909 East University.

Oxford Housing complex, image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha are the two oldest African American sororities at the University of Michigan. But neither had a house for their members to call their own until 1968, when they petitioned the University Housing Office for space in the Oxford Housing complex.

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Second Baptist Church, image courtesy of the Ann Arbor District Library.

In 1890, Ann Arbor’s Black Baptist congregation began worshiping at 216 Beakes Street as Second Baptist Church. It provided a spiritual home to generations of Black students at Michigan, with its Sunday sermons listed in The Michigan Daily for decades, while the congregation also provided space for students to hold a wide variety of events.

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