Detroit's First Black Newspaper Honored With Historical Marker

By Kelton Brooks

October 16, 2020

Detroit’s first African American newspaper, The Plaindealer, received a long “overdue” historical marker mounted on Thursday (October 15) at the corner of the Westin Book Cadillac at Shelby and State – its former office.

The Plaindealer newspaper was founded in 1883 by brothers Benjamin and Robert Pelham Jr., Walter H. Stowers and W.H. Anderson. Their mission was to promote civil rights and provide coverage of local and national events. The Plaindealer ceased publication in 1894 due to lack of funding, but its legacy will remain in downtown Detroit.

The historic newspaper initially received its marker approval in 1977, but it wasn’t mounted until this year.

Karen Hudson-Samuels, chair of the Black Historic Sites Committee, an affinity group of the Detroit Historical Society, had learned about the marker. She began making calls around the city to seek a letter of support from the Michigan Historical Commission.

Jeremy Dimick, director of Collections at the Detroit Historical Society, received the call from Hudson-Samuels. He found the Plaindealer’s marker in early January in the society’s 100,000-square-foot storage facility in southwest Detroit, which houses nearly 250,000 historically significant objects.

“It looked like it had come right out of the box,” said Dimick. “Even the posts that were supposed to be installed with it were sitting right next to it, just waiting on its day to be installed, seen and read by everyone; and I guess, today is that day.”

The city unveiled the marker on Thursday (October 15) at Capitol Park.

“If you look around Capitol Park, this is a district that preserves some of the most important history of Detroiters,” she said during the ceremony. “Journalism is the first draft of history, and we’re making history here today.”

Photo: Getty Images

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