Federal grant to brighten up historical past of Windsor’s Black group

Local history buffs will soon be able to hear and see the stories of one of Windsor’s historic areas.

The federal government, through the FedDev Ontario-CUI My Main Streets community activator funding, has put $235,000 toward creating a virtual walking tour of the McDougall Street Corridor, a center of Windsor’s historic Black community.

The research behind the project has been taking place for some time thanks to the University of Windsor’s history department, the Black Council of Windsor-Essex, the Windsor Public Library, the Essex County Black Historical Research Society, and others. Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk formally announced the funding at the event on Thursday.

dr Anneke Smit, director of the U of W Center for Cities, said the funding will help keep alive the stories of a neighborhood that today, thanks to urban renewal projects in the 1950s and 1960s, bears little resemblance to the thriving center of Windsor’s Black community from decades ago.

“It’s almost a forgotten history of the area,” said Smit. “So, we saw a real opportunity to be able to come in behind that research team with the tech support, and the organizational support, and be able to build out that story.”

Similar to a walking history tour created for the Olde Walkerville area, visitors can soon go to a website or an app to scan barcodes that correspond to a point of interest and hear a little background about that site, or even a dramatized story connected to it .

Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk announces funding for the McDougall Street Corridor during an event at Alton C. Parker Park in Windsor, July 28, 2022. Photo by Mark Brown/WindsorNewsToday.ca.

Smit said while the undertaking is a big one, it is important for people to understand the area’s rich history, and the need to preserve Black history in Windsor for future generations.

“It’s taking the oral histories, but it’s also doing the documentary histories, going through Windsor City Council minutes to see what was discussed, it’s looking at old reports,” said Smit. “We keep hearing about stashes of photos that are around that haven’t been shared with the public until now.”

Roughly, the McDougall Street Corridor includes the area bounded by Goyeau Street, Mercer Street, Windsor Avenue, and Highland Avenue. It straddles the Downtown Windsor and Wyandotte BIAs and features the former Windsor Arena as a neighborhood anchor.

Parallel 42 Systems has been hired to create the app, and it is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

Complete information about the U of W’s Center for Cities can be found on its official website.

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