Some history on Black History Month
Posted on 01/26/2023
Mayor Brian Turnbull Dear Northvillians and friends, 

This week, in preparation for Black History Month celebrations in our community, I will highlight some historic Northville events surrounding this month-long commemoration.

Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans in the United States. It honors all Black people from all periods of U.S. history. This monthly observance originated in the United States in 1969 (54 years ago) and, shortly after, migrated to other countries (including Ireland, Canada and the UK).

Before we look at some of this history, here’s what is happening in town today

• Quarterly Mayoral Town Hall – Thursday, Jan. 26 (Live and on Zoom). Northville Township Hall (6 Mile & Sheldon), Debbie Dingell, our new U.S Representative will join via Zoom, and Matt Koleszar, our State Representative, will be there in person. View link here

• Mayor Turnbull’s presentation about Northville’s Historic Neighborhoods has been rescheduled for Wednesday, February 1 at 7 p.m. Location: the Church in Mill Race Village

• Snow Moon Hike @ Northville’s Maybury State Park, Feb. 5, 7 p.m. - Guided tours that start at the Trailhead Building. Enter off Eight Mile. View link here

In recognition of Black History Month, I will recognize some individuals and events around our community that have made an imprint on our DNA

John Lewis – Michigan’s Last Civil War Vet
• In the Northville area, John Lewis was a storied Civil War veteran. According to The Record, “The Lewis family fled the South before the Civil War and stayed at the Ambler Station, which was part of the Underground Railroad (one of four stations in Northville including: Starkweather Farm, Meads Mill Area and the Cady Inn).
• The Lewis Family took up residence in the Northville area closer to Salem.
• John Lewis felt compelled to enlist in Pontiac’s first African American division during the Civil War. He ultimately fought at Gettysburg. At the Lewis family home, they proudly displayed his battle-worn Civil War drum.
• And, yes, John Lewis was reportedly Michigan’s last living Civil War veteran.

Joe Louis – World Heavyweight Boxing Champion
• Joe Louis (Joseph Louis Barrow) put our town on the map in the 1930’s when he trained on occasion in Northville. At the time, the town was a nucleus of boxing in the Detroit area, with a private full-time indoor ring on the third floor of a private residence in the historic section of Northville on Wing Street.
• The Brown Bomber (as he was referred to) and Northville Downs teamed up to prepare for a fight in 1939 when he was defending his championship crown for the eighth time (since first winning the title in 1937).
• The Downs facility in Northville hosted the Wayne County Fair. At the facility, a boxing ring was set up in front of the grandstand for workouts. Daily busloads of fans showed up from all over the country to see Joe in action for $1 a day (that’s $21 in today’s money).
• This location was well-publicized as Joe Louis’s official training center, all in preparation for the 1939 World Heavyweight Championship. The match was against Bob Pastor at Tiger Stadium (Briggs Field), where Joe won with a KO in the 11th round.
• It was acknowledged in The Record that Joe Louis stayed at a Northville estate on 8 Mile & Newburgh and also spent time in the same vicinity where the Living and Learning Enrichment Center is housed today.
• The Record also mentioned that Northville residents enjoyed seeing Joe running, walking, and socializing in town. He was welcomed in the community and considered a true Northvillian.

Equality rallies
• 2020 was quite a year of historic events, and during this period, rallies for equality took place in Northville at Ford Field and at the City Hall greenspace. Notably, at the “One World Family Rally” in collaboration with My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, I was privileged and honored to sign a Commit to Action Proclamation on behalf of the City of Northville and our Police Department.
• My Brother’s Keeper was launched by President Obama in February, 2014 to address inequalities in society. Today the alliance works to unleash the power of communities working together to solve problems for our youth and improve real life outcomes. Our oversized copy of the proclamation hangs in City Hall today. It is a symbol of our commitment to equality of policies and procedures for all in our Northville community.
I am extremely proud of all Northvillians, both today and throughout history, who have treated all in our society with equality, integrity, respect, and the highest degree of ethics. Northville is truly a special place and these principles have guided us for nearly 200 years. They are part of our DNA.

Keep that Northville Faith... and be proud to be Northville Strong!

Brian Turnbull
Mayor – Northville
[email protected] / 248.505.6849