Digitizing and preserving African American history and heritage is an important mission in the digital age. Providing access to K-12 and undergraduate students and educators, as well as the community at large, is the largest challenge.
With the increase in technology and digitization, students are accessing information via the internet in increasing numbers. Educators are also utilizing information via the internet in equally increasing numbers. Thus, digitizing and preserving African American history and heritage; especially in small localized communities such as Romulus, Michigan, is extremely important to the educational development of K-12 and undergraduate students. With that being said, it is important that more and more projects and initiatives dedicated to the digitization and preservation of African American history and heritage emerge.
Created by David M. Walton (dual PhD candidate, History and African American & African Studies) the Virtual Black Romulus Cultural Heritage Map (VBRCHM) is the first step of a larger project, the Virtual Black Romulus Cultural Heritage Center (VBRCHC). As its name implies, the VBRCHM is an on-line interactive map that operates as a virtual cultural heritage tour of important historical and contemporary sites that are important to the history, culture and heritage of Romulus, Michigan’s African American community. The VBRCHM is designed to serve as a research and educational tool for K-12 students, undergraduate students, educators, and the community at-large. In turn, users can easily and readily identify points of interest for the African American community of Romulus. They can also access brief biographical sketches of important African Americans and their role in the development of this community. Educators in the Romulus Community Schools system can quickly reference and direct students to the web-site if they wish to incorporate localized African American history into their pedagogy. The map identifies and describes sites in Romulus, Michigan, that are important to the culture, history and heritage of the African-American community. The VBRCHC reflects the rudimentary development of Romulus, as well as points of interest and biographies that shaped the African American community of Romulus from 1900 until 1950.
The VBRCHC reveals that the story of pre-WWII Romulus is unique and interesting. What makes that story important is that African Americans owned homes, they did not live in the central city and that the African American community of pre-WWII Romulus finds its genesis a half a century before the time most scholars identify as the beginning of the African American suburbanization process. To understand Romulus is to understand the precursor mentality of the communities that produced the verve of the Michigan Civil Rights Movement. These communities, although rare, were filled with the spirit of the times. The African American Romulus community was shaped and geared by labor unionists and organizers, educators and the pre-existing rural group; as well as the fashion in which the community absorbed new migrants. They were people of the time to a large degree, who had a clear view of what they saw for their community. These African American residents of Romulus represented what Dr. W.E.B. Dubois described as the “talented tenth.” These teachers, ministers and labor activists organized and politicized for the preservation and advancement of their suburban community. They were not just reactionaries, but often they were also agents of pro-action; important not only to Romulus, but to the Detroit metropolitan area as well.