Black Bottom

In the earlier part of the 20th century Black Bottom was an African-American community that thrived. Located at the east side of downtown Detroit, these people owned  350 businesses. In the community were 52 professionals: including doctors, dentists, and lawyers. In spite of discrimination and economic troubles, the Paradise theatre frequently had headliners such as, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr., and Louis Armstrong to name a few. The neighborhood harbored a lot of Detroit history; it helped raise Joe Lewis and Aretha Franklin, it survived the Great Depression, produced the weapons that helped end WWII, and contributed to the automotive boom of the 1950’s. Despite its success, social change attracted headliners elsewhere, overcrowding made it a difficult place to find jobs and housing, gambling had become rampant, and the neighborhood was slowly demolished through the 60’s and 70’s to make way for the Chrysler Freeway, the Elmwood housing project, and Lafayette Park.


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