Albion was once known as “Little Detroit,” because of its industrial jobs and diverse culture. Like many old factory towns, Albion is going through some reinvention right now, which includes a new brewery, bakery and hotel.
But the history of “Little Detroit” can still be found in displays around the city. Here are two tributes to the brave and bold of the Albion community:
Holland Park, 100 North Albion St., Albion
In 1916, the iron foundries of Albion needed workers and went south to recruit. A group of African-American families made their way north for jobs and to settle down. In the time of segregation, it meant there was nowhere for the kids to be taught by African-American teachers. White students were moved to a new school and the Southern families used West Ward School.According to Albionwestward.net, it later led to contention in the community. In 1953, parents led a boycott against the “separate but unequal” schools. The Albion Board of Education closed West Ward that October and the building was eventually torn down.Now, the area is called Holland Park, named after one of the boycott leaders. There’s an installation that explains the history of the school and a Civil Rights memorial dedicated to Robert Holland, Sr.
Tuskegee Airmen Gardner House Museum, 509 S. Superior St., Albion
Find out more of Albion’s iron foundry history at the Gardner House Museum. While there, check out the exhibit on the Tuskegee Airmen.It celebrates three local men who flew combat airplanes in World War II. Because of segregation in the army, they were trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, as part of a program that was exclusively for African Americans. Over the course of the war 1,000 African-American men were trained there, according to Tuskegee University.The three men settled down in Albion after the war. They were: Robert Chandler (pilot), Grover Crumsby (pilot) and Finis Holt (radio man). The war ended as Albion resident Richard Weatherford graduated from the program.