African Americans established a close-knit community in this neighborhood near their churches and the Dunbar Center, a gathering place for all blacks. Bethel African Methodist Episcopal and Second Baptist churches evolved from the small 1853 Union Church nearby at 504 High Street. Nineteenth century blacks were carpenters, masons, blacksmiths, barbers, and draymen, as well as domestics and laborers. They helped build the railroad and the university. In 1890, George Jewett, son of a blacksmith, was UM’s first black football player. He later owned a dry-cleaning business on South State Street. Katherine Crawford, an 1898 UM Medical School graduate, opened a medical practice in her family’s Fuller Street home.
The 1920s building boom created jobs; Ann Arbor’s black population doubled to almost 600. Post World War II prosperity brought that number to 3,200 by 1960. Few, however, were employed in city offices, or on school or university faculties, or held elected positions. Segregated housing practices restricted most black families to this area.