“Black Bottom: Life before Lafayette Park”

Before it was Lafayette Park, the area was called Black Bottom. Learn about the history of the location.

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afayette Park was once the site of Black Bottom, named this for its rich soil, according to the Detroit Historical Society. Many Blacks who moved from the South settled in Black Bottom. Due to segregation, "they really couldn't live very many places in the city," says Marsha Music, a park resident whose father, Joe Von Battle, owned Joe's Record Shop north of Black Bottom at Mack Avenue and Hastings Street.

Music says Black Bottom was comprised of residents from mixed-income levels and different professions. Hastings Street was a main road, and there were Black-owned businesses throughout the community.

During the 1950s and '60s, the area was razed for an urban renewal project, and the Chrysler Freeway was built. Many of Black Bottom's residents ended up moving to housing projects, the DHS notes.

Music's father, who recorded Aretha Franklin, her father the Reverend C.L. Franklin, John Lee Hooker and many more, had to move his business.

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"I remember standing there with my dad, looking over in that big pit, in that crevasse and seeing that and my father saying, 'This used to be Hastings,'" Music says of the Chrysler Freeway.

Lafayette Park is like "hallowed ground" because of its history, she says. And now she lives minutes from where her father's shop once stood.

Photo courtesy of Marsha Music, record shop photographed by Jacques Demetre.

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