Detroit Untold: The 8 Mile Wall

The history of the city of Detroit goes deep, and there are parts of it that many natives don't even know. My father often talks about race relations in the city when he was growing up and references the "8 Mile Wall,” also known as the "Wailing Wall," as something that stood out to him most. The wall stood 6 feet tall and went on for only about a half a mile. It was erected in the 1940s in order to separate black homeowners and white homeowners.

In the 1930s, the Federal Housing Agency sought to build Detroit neighborhoods that were not yet developed, by bringing in African-American and Jewish families. This is what prompted the "white flight" in the city. Some white homeowners refused to make the move to the suburbs, and a company came up with the idea of the wall. Because of the wall's modest size it was mainly symbolic, but it did send a clear message on where black people were welcome.

The wall ran through Van Antwerp Park, on Pembroke Avenue, between Birwood and Mendota Streets until 8 Mile, and then again through Alfonso Wells Memorial Playground, between Chippewa Avenue and Norfolk Street. Parts of the wall still remain, but have been painted by small activists groups in order to put a new meaning to the racial divide.

As the demographics of the city are changing and more white people are moving back to the city we must reflect on the city's past in order to keep us from going back to our old ways of racial division and tension. The "8 Mile Wall" is a clear example of something we never want to go back to.