New Detroit musical showcases removal of historic Black Bottom neighborhood

A new musical in Detroit follows a fictional family through a very real period of Motor City history: the decline of Black Bottom

Titled Hastings Street, it follows the Carsons in the 50s and 60s and features an original score of jazz and blues. The director and producer of the musical, Gary Anderson hopes the performance adds texture to the past while offering lessons for the future.

"We talk about it like a sore wound because it's never been healed," he said. "You talk about Gratiot, obviously Hastings Street. We talk about a number of the clubs."

The stories of Black Bottom and Paradise Valley haven't always been part of the civil discourse in Michigan. Teaching the history behind how both neighborhoods were torn up to make way for a concept called "urban renewal" was only recently added to the curriculum in Detroit schools.

The performance, which is being put on at the Music Hall in downtown Detroit, showcases the 1949 Housing Act and the Interstate Highway Act, both of which played roles in the removal of the historic neighborhoods. 

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Anderson said both laws resulted in not only lost history but also in the denial of a community's opportunity to elevate.

"The issue of equal development in the story of Black Bottom is how we lost ground, black folks lost ground economically when that whole community was taken apart," he said. "And since we’re now in a new phase of economic development in Detroit, we want to make sure the complexion of the development doesn’t have an adverse impact on black Detroiters again."

The show will be going on until July 31. A link to tickets for the show can be found here