Ossian Sweet historic district awarded $500K for preservation, expansion

The City of Detroit handed a half a million dollars to preserve and expand a historic portion of the city.

It's the site of a key moment in civil rights history, where an angry mob gathered outside a black family's home, after they moved into a segregated neighborhood. 

Officials announced Monday a $500,000 grant to improve and expand the historic district of a home at 2905 Garland Avenue and thanks to a federal grant several homes on the street will also get a facelift.

One home in particular is special. In 1925, it was purchased by an African American physician who moved his family there. It was a move that forced integration in an all white neighborhood. But when a violent mob protested, Dr. Ossian Sweet and his supporters stood their ground and shots were fired. When a white protester was killed, Dr. Sweet and others inside the home were charged with murder making this house a symbol of racial discrimination in housing.

Dr. Sweet was eventually acquitted of murder. The family who moved into the home after the Sweet family says they knew of its historical significance when they purchased it. Daniel Baxter thanked his mom who was on hand for the announcement for teaching him the significance of the civil rights movement. Today, he is the City of Detroit's elections director.

"When history is your landlord you have a greater responsibility to America and the world," he said.

City officials believe this grant will help preserve history and honor a landmark in the fight for justice. That's why city officials say part of the grant will also be used to rehabilitate two other homes on Garland where the violent mob gathered that day and where the shooting took place.

City leaders say this effort will also help expand this historic district in the city's East Village neighborhood helping to remove blight and increase neighborhood investments.

"This grant allows us to commemorate another part of our nation's history reminding us all to remember and to say freedom, justice, and liberty -- oh how Sweet it is," said Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP.