Where Past Meets Present: Three Days in Detroit

Dig deeper into Detroit’s Black history and arts while supporting Black-owned businesses along the way. As you explore important Black history sites throughout Detroit, learn the unique stories of the people who influenced the city and meet the locals forging their own paths.

The Spirit of Detroit sculpture in downtown Detroit
The Spirit of Detroit | Photo Courtesy of Pure Michigan

Share This

Day 1

Learn how Detroit's history has helped shape its modern-day artists, entrepreneurs and leaders at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. This landmark institution traces history from the Middle Passage to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond and hosts special exhibitions celebrating Black artists and entertainers.

Across the street you’ll find the Detroit Institute of Arts, which frequently showcases the works of Black artists from past to present. 

Time to dine? Down the road you’ll find the historical Flood's Bar & Grille—owned and operated by the Byrd family for more than 30 years—serving up comfort food and cocktails accompanied by music from live DJs. While you’re in town, visit The Block Detroit, a modern American restaurant and bar run by co-owner Stephanie Byrd. Check out the family’s third establishment, the Garden Theater in Midtown, a beautifully restored space dating back to 1912 that is designed to host special events and celebrations.

Day 2

Born in Alabama, Rosa Parks moved to Detroit after her famous protest sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. See the Rosa Parks bus at The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, part of the ongoing “With Liberty and Justice for All” exhibit.

There are plenty of dining options in Dearborn; one of the newest additions is the Lobster Pitstop, a brick-and-mortar restaurant from the owners of the mobile Lobster Food Truck. Nick Wilson and his aunt Kathryn Wilson serve succulent Maine lobster rolls and other fresh seafood to hordes of hungry patrons.

Craving a sweet treat? Head north to Sweet Potato Sensations, a Black-owned business that celebrates all things sweet potatoes. Husband-and-wife team Jeffery and Cassandra Thomas founded their business with their now-famous sweet potato cookie. You can also sink your fork into sweet potato pie, cheesecake, cobblers and layer cakes—there’s even sweet potato ice cream—along with a variety of other sweet and savory dishes.

Day 3

The legacy of the Avenue of Fashion, located on Livernois Avenue between Seven and Eight Mile roads, lives on today. This stretch has a long history of Black-owned shops, restaurants, galleries and clubs. Browse through fashionable finds at Alter Ego Boutique and stop by Jo’s Gallery where second-generation owner Garnette Archer sells original art, jewelry and home décor that honors the Black experience.

A Detroit staple, Baker’s Keyboard Lounge is believed to be the world’s oldest operating jazz club, dating all the way back to 1934. Having hosted the musical talents of Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Nat “King” Cole—among many others—this intimate space continues its traditions of live music and satisfying soul food.

New to the scene is Trap Vegan, a 100% plant-based restaurant that opened in November 2021. Serving everything from a loaded vegan burger to fresh smoothies, owner Jasmine Raiford created such a hit that the restaurant sold out on its very first day.

Savor traditional West African favorites at the Fork in Nigeria food truck. Founder Prej Iroegbu is rapidly expanding his presence with multiple food trucks and plans to open a brick-and-mortar restaurant. From classic jollof rice to cassava-based fufu, Fork in Nigeria celebrates the cuisine from 250 ethnic Nigerian states.

The longer you stay, the more you can explore. Learn more about influential Black figures and historic legacies in Discover Detroit’s Black History.