LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's Capitol is hosting a two-part series inviting the public to delve into the careers of groundbreaking African Americans from the Capitol’s 143-year-long history.
Capitol historians Valerie Marvin and her colleagues are highlighting the groundbreaking work of Black officials from all parts of Michigan as they came to gather and work in Lansing.
“One thing I've learned overtime is most people assume that historic buildings that date back to the 19th century were not places that women and people of color worked historically but that’s actually not true,” Marvin said.
Michigan’s history of inclusion can be traced as far as the 19th century when the state Supreme Court ruled against public discrimination based on race.
“It's not to say it didn't happen, of course, unfortunately, racial discrimination, continued to be a factor but Michigan was on the edge of this,” Marvin said.
The first part of the series held over Zoom on Thursday started with the work of leaders like Wilmot Johnson, who led a groundbreaking project cataloguing Black life in the state in 1915.
“The second presentation is going to pick up in the 1950s with the work of Sen. Cora Brown who was the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Senate. The second woman to serve on the Senate overall,” Marvin said.
The presentation will cover how the community of Black legislators and government officials grew over time, she said..
“So in many cases, these are names that we know, names that we’ve heard and we want to take a deeper dive into their stories and really look at how they came to government and how they helped change the state in ways that we still feel and see as modern citizens,” Marvin said.
The second half of the two-part series will be held virtually at 7pm Tuesday night, free of charge. All you need to do is RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot.
“I hope that people can take away a sense of pride that Michigan’s workforce in the capitol has been a little more diverse than what you might think, historically speaking,” Marvin said.