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Detroit’s First Black-Owned Bookstore Secures Federal Preservation Grant
Detroit’s first Black-owned bookstore has secured a $15,000 grant from the National Park Service (NPS) as part of its initiative to preserve history in underrepresented communities.
Vaughn’s Bookstore was founded in 1961 and owned by Ed Vaughn, a Democrat who served in the Michigan House of Representatives in the 1970s, and then again in the early 1990s before retiring in 2001.
“As the first Black-owned bookstore in Detroit and a hub of African-American journalism and conversation, Vaughn’s Bookstore played a key role in the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s,” said Mark Rodman, Michigan’s State Historic Preservation Officer. “An important priority of the National Register program is to document those sites associated with significant events that have contributed to broad patterns of our history.”
Rodman added, “we look forward to nominating the property to the National Register as the first step toward its reuse.”
The National Register is the official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture.
According to NPS, Vaughn’s Bookstore was one of the nation’s most significant publishers of Black poets. It also served as a space where Black American authors could host community events and book signings.
In 1967, the bookstore was hit with a firebomb during civil unrest in the Motor City but it reopened shortly after.
Vaughn, who is now 87 years old, says he is thankful for the grant and opportunity to be recognized.
“We were a game-changer,” Vaughn told the Michigan Advance. “People in the community had a place where they could buy books in their neighborhood and didn’t have to order them by mail.”
The SHPO grant was one of two projects in Michigan to receive funding from the National Park Service’s Underrepresented Community Grant Program. A separate $50,000 grant was also awarded to the city of Detroit to develop a historic context for the city’s Latinx community.
“These grants will shine a light on places and experiences vital to the Civil Rights movement and help us further expand our understanding of the Civil Rights movement in Michigan,” said Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “The nomination of Vaughn’s Bookstore to the National Register will recognize a significant location that served as a center for Black culture and played a meaningful role in the Civil Rights movement in the city of Detroit.”