mapping slavery in detroit

Elizabeth (Lisette) Denison Forth was enslaved in Detroit and later became a successful businesswoman. Image from: Mark F. McPherson. Looking for Lisette: in quest of an American original (Dexter: Mage Press, 2001).

Detroit is a fascinating American city with a rich and sometimes troubled history. Mapping Slavery in Detroit is a University of Michigan Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) project to develop and explore the history of slavery in Detroit and its effect on the modern-day city.

The existence of slavery in the city of Detroit and its surrounding areas is a topic that has yet to be thoroughly researched and explained. In fact, current public portrayals of Detroit’s history still emphasize the role of the Underground Railroad. The primary goal of this project is to provide a more complete picture of slavery in the Detroit area for the general public, students, and scholars in order to acknowledge the full history of the area and to learn from it. Continue reading ›

Learn more about the project; check out the interactive map we created; view graphs detailing the slave population in the area, and travel with us on a field trip to Detroit.

Watch the video of Mapping Slavery in Detroit. The video showcases the two years of work Professor Tiya Miles and a team of students spent researching the history of slavery in pre-Civil War Detroit, mapping the lives of slaves and former slaves and reclaiming an essential part of the city's history.

Read a write-up of Mapping Slavery in Detroit written by Brian Short featured in the Fall 2014 issue of LSA Magazine.

Top image: Woodward Avenue, Detroit, c. 1865-1868. Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.


Digging Detroit,, episode 16: Slavery in Detroit.

Digging Detroit is a community-based digital storytelling project focused on revealing the history of Detroit.