Local History Photos

Fifth Ward school, 1855


Fifth Ward school, 1855

African Americans had settled in the Ann Arbor area long before the civil war. Thomas Freeman, a barber, and J. W. Brooks, a drayman, minister, and former slave, were delegates to the 1843 state convention of colored citizens of Michigan. It demanded better jobs, education, and the right to vote. Ann Arbor schools were integrated. this photo (ca.1880) shows students at the Fifth Ward school, built in 1855 on the south side of Wall street.


Date: 1855

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)


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Preybyterian [sic] Church -- Huron & Division Sts. 1865 (ca.) (BL000923)


Preybyterian [sic] Church -- Huron & Division Sts. 1865 (ca.) (BL000923)

Bentley Image Bank: BL000923

The founding meeting of the Michigan Antislavery Society was held in the First Presbyterian Church (located at the southwest corner of E. Huron and Division Streets, Ann Arbor, later the site of the Ann Arbor News building.) Delegates from six counties elected officers and adopted fourteen resolutions denouncing slavery. This convention led to the establishment in Jackson in 1839 of the American Freeman, the state's first antislavery newspaper and its successor, Ann Arbor's Signal of Liberty, in 1841.

Image courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library


Date: 1865

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Rev. Guy Beckley home, 1425 Pontiac Trail (photo 1930s)


Rev. Guy Beckley home, 1425 Pontiac Trail (photo 1930s)

Rev. Guy Beckley was a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, even though it was a federal crime to help escaping slaves. His house nearby on Pontiac Trail was one of several secret "stations" in the area. Caroline Quarlls, who escaped from slavery, stayed with Beckley on her journey to freedom in Canada. Michigan's Anti-Slavery Society was established in Ann Arbor in 1836. Starting in 1841, its newspaper, The Signal of Liberty, which called for the abolition of slavery in the United States, was published in the Huron Block, directly across Broadway from here, by Beckley and his co-editor Theodore Foster. Beckley died in 1847.

Read more about the Signal of Liberty newspaper and the Underground Railrod in The Underground Railroad in Ann Arbor by Grace Shackman, Pictorial History of Ann Arbor: Churches, Theater, and Newspapers, and Ann Arbor Founders: Ann Arbor, Abolition, and the Civil War.

Image courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library


Date: 1930

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)


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